What is the aim of the bill?
Presented by the French culture minister, Christine Albanel, the proposed law aims to curb (without claiming to be able to stop) illegal downloading, especially of music and films, and hence support artistic creation.
1. The bill proposes reducing the amount of time between a film being shown in the cinema and coming out on DVD and on the internet. The French cinema trade union federation has said it is ‘ready” to reduce this window to four to six months (from six to 18 currently).
2. A “gradual response” when a web user is caught illegally downloading. The web user would first receive an e-mail, then a registered letter, then finally his or her internet access would be cut off for three months to a year (this sanction can however be reduced if the web user promises not to do it again).
3. The creation of a new offence: allowing someone to illegally download material on your internet connection. The owner of the internet connection is responsible, and not the person doing the downloading. Therefore: “if a neighbour pirates your internet connection, it’s you who are responsible,” explains Anicet Mbida, a journalist at French IT news website 01 Informatique. The owner is also responsible for making sure the connection is secure – and, according to French IT news website PC INpact - paying for the privilege.
4. The creation of an administrative body (Hadopi is its French acronym) which will be tasked with implementing the sanctions. Despite being administrative in nature, this authority will also have judicial powers.
1. Record companies, which continue to suffer from declining sales. French sales of CDs and DVDs fell by 132 million euros (19.9%) in 2008, to reach 530 million euros – the sixth consecutive year of decline.
2. Fifty-two French performers who have signed a petition in favour of the law. They say that illegal downloading worries them and consider the bill is a good move to help reconcile the internet, culture and creation.
Meanwhile, at least 37% of French web users aged 18 years and above who occasionally use the internet admit downloading or using illegal content, according to a TNS-Sofres Logica survey conducted for the French daily Metro on March 8.
Who opposes it?
1. Forty-four MEPs, members of the European Parliament Commission for civil liberties, justice and interior affairs, who voted for a report affirming “every individual should have the right to access a computer and the internet”, and that “this access must not be refused as a punishment in case of an offence.”
2. Some French opposition members (Patrick Bloche from the Socialist Party calls it “a lost bet in advance"; Didier Mathus denounced a "general policing of web users"). Several members of the ruling UMP have also expressed their reservations.
3. Cable, internet and phone providers (except one operator, Numericable) are firmly against the idea of cutting Internet connections. Instead, they propose a fine. And since many operators offer “triple-play” access to internet, television and telephone, they say it would be technically difficult to cut internet access without cutting the telephone and television connections.
4. The National Commission for Information and Liberties (CNIL), responsible for ensuring the protection of personal information, including that of web users.
5. Many web users feel the sanctions proposed in the bill are disproportionate in relation to the offence. Citizen group Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) has called for a “blackout” of the internet. They’ve been inspired by internet users in New Zealand, who forced lawmakers to withdraw a similar bill. Among other countries, Sweden further stiffened laws against piracy, but without adopting a “gradual response”.
The French blogosphere has been very active, with cartoons and parodies about the law. For example, an anti-piracy site supported by the government, “I love artists”, was parodied by the site “I love web users.”