- Brussels - France - Internet - law - Piracy (copyright infringement)
The European Commission has said that France's controversial anti-piracy bill, approved by the French Senate and championed by French Culture Minister Christine Albanel, does not violate European law.
The bill to combat Internet piracy by cutting off the Web to illegal downloaders won final approval Wednesday. The European Union telecoms commissioner, Viviane Reding, expressed serious reservations about the bill but stated that there was no indication that the bill contradicted European law, and that it was up to France to rule on its legality.
The legislation, described as one of the toughest ever drafted against Internet piracy, will punish those who pirate music and film by shutting down their Internet access for up to a year.
The bill was passed by an overwhelming majority of 189 to 14 in the upper house, setting the stage for President Nicolas Sarkozy to sign it into law.
But the Socialist opposition has said it planned to ask the Constitutional Council, France's highest authority, to rule on the legality of the bill.
Under the bill, a state agency known by the acronym Hadopi will be set up to track and punish those who download films and songs without paying, serving as a go-between for content providers and Internet-service providers.
The legislation will set up a "three-strikes" system under which first offenders receive an email warning. After a second offense, they receive a letter, and if they are caught a third time, they lose their Internet account for up to a year.
The bill enjoys broad support from the music and film industry in France and abroad, but consumer groups and the Socialist opposition have warned it will be difficult to implement.
Opponents say the bill fails to give alleged offenders enough recourse to challenge accusations, and they argue that Web innovations will make it possible for downloaders to avoid detection.
The National Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 296 to 233 on Tuesday, a month after the text was rejected. The vote was a surprise setback for Sarkozy, who has championed the measure.