French UMP Members Having Second Thoughts on Three Strikes?

HADOPI in France allowed that country to be one of the first countries to pass a graduated, or three strikes law for alleged copyright infringers. Now, the same country that once looked like a grand example for rights holders trying to crack down on copyright infringement has a problem implementing the law.

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

For rights holders hoping to crack down in file-sharing all over the world, HADOPI was a major victory. Not only would France be one of the first countries to pass a three strikes law, but it would serve as a shining example as rights holders lobbied other countries to enact similar laws. If, for example, the litigation campaign in the US failed (which is a possibility at this point), a three strikes law is always a nice backup plan.

Now there’s a problem. The once shining example of France on how to enact laws according to rights holders is starting to get cold feet on HADOPI from non other than politicians within the very political party that pushed for that law in the first place.

The news appeared in Le Figaro (French – seems to reject direct Google translation and kicks Google to the front page instead) According to a rough translation, HADOPI is still currently stalled even after all this time:

(Google translated)

A leader of the UMP deputies to the National Assembly, responsible for mobilizing its troops after a first vote failed in April 2009, Jean-Francois Cope said Wednesday that he “knew and perceived weaknesses” of the law before adoption. “I changed a little on the issue,” he said, acknowledging a “clumsy choice in texts and the words” during the debate, and admitting to having “a little mea culpa on the matter.

This position, in the majority, is not isolated. In a report entitled “Freedom and rules in the digital world” published in late May, UMP deputies had already distanced themselves from the repressive system created by the Olivennes report and validated by the President of the Republic. Until now, the “arsenal of sanctions has mainly addressed [users]. This is not the most effective, “he was writing. “The illegal downloading should not become marginal due to restrictive legislation, but because of technological advances and changes in practice,” added the report. Clearly, new modes of consumption, including streaming legal, will lead to greater respect for copyright. No fines and cuts Internet.

In other words, key players in the UMP (the current French governing party) are expressing doubts about a three strikes regime and figured that disconnection and fines might not be the right approach. It doesn’t mean that they are backing away completely from HADOPI though:

If the MP Herve Mariton has said he should not see “declaration of war against Hadopi or challenged the vote” law, the statements in this report have created some unease among the assignees Rights, who regret the delays in the implementation of the anti-piracy. At a press conference in late June, Internet Piracy recalled that there was “no further mass” because it was not calibrated. Even if the producers sent him 50,000 alerts per day, the authority may impose a sanction only the most diligent hackers. “It is the opposite of a speed camera” hammered Mireille Quaretta Imbert, president of the committee for protection of rights (PCD).

Essentially, they don’t have a problem with going after the most hardcore infringers, but going after everyone en-mass isn’t exactly an attractive idea. Who could blame them? Since the third strike requires a judge, could you imaging what the justice system would be like if some 50,000 infringers per month were sent through it? How much resources would be required to maintain such a law in the first place – particularly when many European countries are trying to cut back on spending to fight off a recession at this point? If a country was faced with a decision between preventing another recession and cracking down on internet file-sharers, what would the logical choice be?

What’s more is that the current effect of HADOPI which was meant to slow down file-sharing has actually increased it instead. It wasn’t like there weren’t signs that HADOPI was flawed before, but now politicians within the party are starting to realize it.

It’s difficult to say whether or not the French president will be able to try and make the party stay on course since he’s currently embroiled in a financial scandal where he is accused of taking illegal financing.

In any event, it really sounds like there are cracks in the HADOPI armor at this point. We aren’t experienced with French law, so we can’t say for certain if HADOPI can still be defeated at this point, but the will to push it forward sounds like it’s starting to waiver.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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