As expected, the French National Assembly has approved an amended version of the three-strikes legislation, designed to curb illegal file sharing, slung out earlier this year. When will they realise that none of this is going to work anyway? By Ian Scales.
The three-strikes issue now appears to have settled into a familiar left v. right split in France with the right-leaning majority UMP voting 'for' and the Socialist party against.
Internet rights campaigners across Europe have been trying to keep the issue de -polarised since there is a substantial body of right-leaning libertarian politicians who are against the three-strikes approach but who may be lost if it all becomes too clearly identified with the left. In France at least, that doesn't appear to have worked.
The French legislation will now go to a parliamentary commission for a final tweak before it becomes law, but the Socialists now say that they will appeal the decision to the French Constitutional Court again on the grounds that the process of disconnection planned for the so-called HADOPI (Higher Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Copyright on the Internet) agency to administer still violates fundamental rights to a fair judicial process.
The court threw out the legislation earlier this year on the grounds that an agency alone didn't have the power to disconnect users. The new version of the legislation includes some judicial oversight in the form of an 'Ordinnance Pénale' where the judge waves through disconnections on a simplified procedure unless an appeal is filed (in much the same way as minor trafficoffences are handled in many jurisdictions).
If the bill goes through this time and the Hadopi agency decides to push the pace, the French Ministry of Culture itself says there could be as many as 1000 disconnections a day.
But the idea that this is going to work from a political public relations point of view seems farcical.
It's proposed that after being sent a warning email and then a formal letter by Hadopi, those accused of illegal file-sharing for a third time will be disconnected for up to a year and face a €300,000 fine and even jail time. You can even be found guilty of negligence for allowing the kids to pirate songs - that could get you a month-long suspension and a €1,500 fine.
For a citizenry that tends to overturn lorries and start burning their contents over relatively minor trade issues, the idea that it will collectively 'come quietly' when collared for file-sharing is a stretch too far.
The UK government which looked as if it had caught mad Sarkozy disease over the summer and was poised to offer up some weird three-strikes legislation of its own has now pulled its head in. The press had it all wrong apparently. It was really thinking out loud abut a regime where you send a few letters and then do nothing... so that will work.
All this nonsense is going to lead nowhere in Europe, but a more sinister and potentially more effective evil plan might be being hatched in Japan (certainly a country more likely to be socially disciplined than France).
Sources say Japan might end up with world's first properly organised system for blocking illegal file 'playing'. The system would be installed on every phone sold and would essentially do a digital rights look-up every time a song was to be played to see if there was an actual purchase. What it would do about original analogue recordings (say from speakers) is unsure (these would have to be banned completely, presumably).
The online music debate rattles on but disappointingly it keeps revolving around the appropriateness of copyright policing methods, not the appropriateness of copyright itself.
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