Procedural Error Sinks Would-Be HADOPI Conviction

By Drew Wilson

The HADOPI law (Haute Autorité pour la diffusion des œuvres et la protection des droits sur internet) and its government agency under the same name, has had its share of controversy over the years in France. Now, another incident has occurred that just adds to the list of reasons why some might question the anti-piracy effort in the first place.

The law made its appearance in 2008 – particularly when it was introduced in the French senate. At the time the French UMP party headed by Nicolas Sarkozy pushed the bill through government as a matter of urgency in spite of a number of objections both within government and outside of government. It would also be a staple for anti-piracy efforts around the world as they finally have one of the first countries in the world to try implementing a so-called “three strikes law” where three accusations of online copyright infringement can mean your Internet access is cut off as well as you being issued fines.

While the law did draw concern for many at the time – mainly the fear that the laws would spread to other countries as well – few would have predicted the extent of the problems it faced since then. There were questions about whether such a law was constitutional from the perspective of the ISP (Internet Service Provider), whether false accusations could play a role in some cases, whether HADOPI itself infringed on copyright through their logo, why judges had so little time to weigh any evidence or whether HADOPI can even convict people in the first place. Of course, the news only got worse after the 2012 elections where the UMP party lost to the Socialist Party. The reason why was because the Socialist Party said that 12 million euros was a lot of money to just to pay 60 agents to send 1 million e-mails. Of course, France has been in the process of finding ways to trim their budget for some time thanks to economic problems.

While all of this may have sounded like HADOPI would burn in defeat, the agency has been able to keep operating. According to BillBoard last December, there have been 2 convictions, 1 fine, 1.15 million first warnings, 100,000 second warnings and 340 third warnings. The fine that was issued was 150 Euro’s. Since there are doubts that this has made any major lasting impact on file-sharing in the country outside of an initial drop when the law began to take effect, this doesn’t seem to be all that impressive. The recent revelation seems to add insult to injury for the whole process.

According to Numerama (French), one of those convicted under HADOPI was acquitted. After some digging, it turns out that the acquittal was due to a procedural error. According to the High Authority, “prosecutors had incorrectly listed the date of the facts contained in the procedure” (Google translated sentence).

Compared to some of the bigger incidences surrounding both the law itself, the political party that pushed the law and the agency that was set up, this may be a minor hick-up, but for those who have been opposed to this from the very beginning, it’s just another item to add to a long list of problems that this anti-piracy effort has had.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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