When it comes to enforcing a three strikes law, one of the more immediate things that don’t come to mind is how expensive it could be to enforce. For ISPs in France, this is a very big issue because the bill could be quite high.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
Is there a cost associated with enforcing something like a three strikes law for ISPs? Well, there is the cost of labor to go in and track down an individual who is accused of copyright infringement. It is a big world wide web out there with millions of people logged in at any given moment. Sorting through the chaos to track down one person would definitely take some effort even with detailed logs of activity being recorded.
So paying for all the labor involved in enforcing these laws, who pays for it? That’s currently what the French government and the French ISPs are currently negotiating (Google translated) according to 01net.
ISPs have brought forth figures on how much it would cost per complaint in the past. Numerama suggests that the cost would be around 8.50 Euro’s (about 10.93 USD) per IP lookup.
That may or may not sound like a whole lot, but consider the fact that the French government said that HADOPI would see about 1000 disconnections per day and sending about 13,000 warning letters for first and second time alleged infringers. Since we’re talking about IP address look-ups, we can assume that 1000 disconnections would mean an additional 3000 look-ups per day totaling 16,000 look-ups.
This is where the bill goes up at a frightening rate. 16,000 look-ups at 8.50 Euro’s each totals 136,000 Euro’s (about 174,803.33 USD) per day. That’s about 952,000 Euro’s (about 1,223,623.34 USD) a week and about 49,640,000 Euro’s (about 63,807,770.71 USD) per year. With costs like this, the RIAA legal fight with file-sharers in the US sounds like quite a bargain at $17 million per year or under a third of the cost.
This isn’t just a randomly pulled out of the air number either. According to this document (Google Translated) the cost per look-up has been available since 2006.
It’s surprising that France is even considering a law like this considering how fragile its economy is at this point.
All of this may be a big motivating factor for the French government hoping to wait for an invoice of the costs instead. The matter isn’t settled yet though since the government and the ISPs are currently negotiating the matter. So who ultimately foots this massive bill remains to be seen.
All we do know is that the cost for this unpopular law is huge. Many observers have already pointed out that the law might not put a large dent in copyright infringement since all people have to do is hack someone’s router, use one-click hosting or even find a number of more anonymous and non-open networks. Those methods could put a serious wrench in to the HADOPI machine. Already, you can wonder how cost effective such a law is. You don’t have to oppose a three strikes law to wonder if this law is worth it – you can just look at how popular downloading material online is and see how much money is being spent to stop it. That, for some, can be enough to say, “maybe this law really isn’t worth it after all.”