France Recommends P2P Moderation

The French government is currently mulling over changes to their copyright laws. Currently, downloading copyrighted material online is punishable by 3 years in prison and a €300,000 fine.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Now it appears that the Justice Minister is recommending that the punishment must be in proportion to the offense.

The suggested changes would apply to those who make, distribute and promote their file-sharing software which has the purpose of downloading copyrighted works. The suggested law recommends that these individuals should face the full punishment of 3 years in jail and a €300,000 fine. It was also clear that there is a difference between making software and promoting it to infringe copyright and making software intended for publication purposes or exchanging data files. While there is no evidence to suggest what defines software as clearly intended to infringe on copyrights, or simply to exchange data, it appears likely that it would be left for the courts to decide.

Meanwhile, those who originally upload copyright infringing content are recommended to be covered by a lesser offense, but still very severe. The punishment would gradually decrease as one moves further and further down the ‘chain’. There is also a time frame involved if one is found to be willfully engaged in the dissemination of content, as they would be the least punished.

At the bottom of the chain would be the downloaders. It was recommended that they don’t need to face jail time. The amount of the fine would be determined based on the following criteria:

• The downloader is a re-offender
• The amount of downloading
• The downloading happened before the official release of the protected work
• The downloading of large amount of files is followed by their automatic dissemination when a user has allowed the P2P software to share his personal file collection.

“These recommendations should not come as a surprise as they reflect the position of the Government during the debate over the DADVSI law. Nicolas Jondet noted, “The Ministry of Culture had proposed the adoption of “a gradual response”, maintaining tough sentences for software publishers but “decriminalising” acts of file-sharing by individuals by lowering the maximum sentence from the €300,000 fine and three years in jail to a mere maximum fine of €38 for downloading and €150 for uploading.”

Nicolas also noted that “no one had ever been put in jail in piracy cases (in few cases only suspended jail sentences were pronounced) and that fines had been very moderate (most of them suspended fines and never above €3,000).”

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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