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France adopts three-strikes law for piracy

Soon, those in France accused of illegal file sharing multiple times could lose Internet access for up to a year, if they don't heed warnings.

France has adopted a strong antipiracy law, one that may mean those who chronically share unauthorized movies and music online will lose Web access for up to a year.

France's top constitutional court approved a revised plan to penalize those accused multiple times of infringing intellectual property, according to a report published Thursday in The New York Times.

In the spring, the court rejected an earlier version of the law.

Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, applauded the French court's decision.

"Today's decision is an enormous victory for creators everywhere," Glickman said. "It is our hope that ISPs will fully honor their promise to cooperate and that the French government will take the necessary measures to dedicate resources to handle the enormous task ahead."

Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel at NBC Universal, said: "The French action recognizes that jobs and economic growth in creative industries are under assault by digital theft. We need a safe and secure Internet that enables consumers to access content easily but does not facilitate illegal file sharing that kills jobs in creative sectors."

Under the law, a new agency will be created that will issue termination notices to Internet service providers, and they will in turn cut off access to customers accused of piracy. But first, in cases where the agency wants to terminate service, it must first go through some kind of judicial review.

One of the ways the law was revised to gain acceptance by the French court is to require a judge to review each case before anyone's Internet access is shut down.

It's doubtful that a law like this could be adopted in the United States, at least at this point. Both the film and music industries have shied away from lobbying for a three-strikes law. But they have appealed to ISPs to voluntarily create what they refer to as a graduated-response program. This would call for the ISPs to issue warnings to chronic copyright offenders and potentially cut off service for those who refuse to comply.

There is yet another way that copyright owners could get ISPs to help in their antipiracy efforts, according to Gwen Hinze, international policy director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

She says the United States could agree to a three-strikes rule as part of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, being negotiated by legislators in the United States, Japan, the European Union, among others.

In this way, U.S. copyright owners could create a law without any public debate, Hinze said. She called any such attempt "policy laundering."

ACTA members are scheduled to gather again for more talks later this year.

Updated at 3 p.m. to include comments by Electronic Frontier Foundation.