France passes harsh antipiracy bill: Un, deux, trois you're out

The French National Assembly has passed a bill to cut off and blacklist suspected file sharers, the cheese-eating copyright monkeys

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
2 min read

Sacré bleu! The French National Assembly has only gone and approved the Création et Internet bill. According to France's Ministry of Culture and Communication, the bill is designed to protect Internet users from the criminal prosecution they are currently exposed to if they illegally file-share -- but it does so by allowing a new agency to terminate users' Internet connections and add them to a blacklist.

The bill, supported by vertically challenged French President Nicolas Sarkozy, went ahead despite the European Parliament deciding last week to prohibit EU governments from terminating a user's Internet access without a court order. The French bill scraped through by 296 votes to 233, a margin tighter than a Parisian waiter's trousers.

The bill will be policed by a new government agency called la Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet (HADOPI), which will issue suspected illegal file sharers with an email, followed by a letter if they do it again. A third strike will see the user's Internet guillotined for between two months and a year, with their name added to a blacklist so they can't sign up to another ISP. Mon dieu! Other measures include forcing all users to secure their networks and, perhaps most open to abuse, ensuring public Wi-Fi hotspots only offer access to approved Web sites.

As you'd expect, the music and film industries are fully onboard with these draconian measures. The French Socialists defeated this bill in April, bless them, but it's back and, following the Pirate Bay case in Sweden, could represent the thin end of the wedge. Here in the UK, and in the US and other countries, ISPs and the entertainment industry are trying to avoid legislation, but if the French are willing to defy the European Parliament, others may follow suit. The Italian government has already agreed to follow the French model, although New Zealand has had to backpedal on a similar law.

On the plus side, the bill does force the entertainment industry to jettison much of their DRM, and DVDs will be released closer to the cinema release. Small comfort, we'd imagine, to Jean-Jaques DeNo-Internet and Amélie Liste-Noir.

Update: The highest French legal authority has now blocked HADOPI. But it's possible that worse is yet to come, as LOPPSI looms...

Image: Gary Denness