French parliament members have adopted an amended version of a controversial anti-piracy bill by 285 votes to 225, following an acrimonious debate between supporters of intellectual property rights and advocates of free access to information.
The groundbreaking bill, known as “Hadopi” -- after the French abbreviation for the High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet -- allows French authorities to track illegal Internet downloading and suspend services forrepeated offenders.
An earlier version of Hadopi was approved by the French Senate in May after the lower house of parliament approved the bill with 296 votes.
‘Three strikes’ and Internet service is out
Dubbed the “three strikes law,” the original version handed a specially created administrative body – or Hadopi – the power to issue two warnings to Internet users who illegally download music, videos or software. A third infringement could result in Hadopi ordering Internet Service Providers (ISP) to suspend Internet access for up to a year, without a trial.
The law was strongly criticised by online civil rights activists and French opposition politicians as well as some members of the ruling UMP party.
Supported by a number of artists, UMP politicians, the law is widely viewed in France as French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s crusade against the pirating of songs and films on the Internet.
Introducing an updated version
But questions over its implementation sparked an heated debate over whether the law constituted a sensible restitution of intellectual property to its rightful owners or an intrusive invasion of privacy rights and denial of access to information.
In June, the country's highest legal authority, the Constitutional Council, ruled that the law was unconstitutional since it allowed the suspension of Internet access without trial and ran contrary to the presumption of innocence provided under French law.
The new version, known as Hadopi 2, allows for double offenders to be tried in a French court before their Internet service is suspended.
Hadopi 2 will now move to the upper house, or Senate, for its approval before its gets signed into law.