France Legislation

The HADOPI law was created to promote the distribution and protection of creative works for distribution on the Internet. Its purpose was to provide a way for the French government to control and regulate Internet access for the purpose of encouraging its citizens to follow copyright laws.

President Nicolas Sarkozy strongly backed this law. It has been estimated that Internet piracy costs France's music industry alone over $978 million each year. Additionally, France is ranked number one for illegally downloaded content. The Internet has made it much easier to steal content and creative works, and so this law hoped to curb such practices by instituting strict consequences if its users were found to be breaking such laws.

The law created a new government agency known as the High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet, replacing the previous agency that came before it known as the ARMT or the Regulation of Technical Measures Authority. This agency retained the mandates of the ARMT while also adding a new mandate to make sure that internet users "screen their internet connections in order to prevent the exchange of copyrighted material without prior agreement from the copyright holders" according to the bill.

The law focuses on P2P sites rather than direct download sites and streaming sites. The government hires a third-party private company that monitor P2P sites that can view IP address. The company then passes this data to HADOPI, which then contacts ISPs to get their client's email addresses. Some ISPs at first refused to give up this information, but after being threatened with legal action and 1500 euro per incident, handed over this information.

The HADOPI law instituted a three-strike procedure. If a copyright holder found that an IP address was downloading or uploading content illegally, the HADOPI law would come into affect. First, the offending Internet subscriber would be tracked based on his/her IP address so that an email could be sent that simply stated that an infraction has occurred without further details about what the content was or whom the content belonged to. After that, the ISP would be legally required to track that individual's connection to determine if a repeat infraction ever occurred. If within six months, a repeat offense was indeed suspected by the copyright holder, the HADOPI law stipulated that a certified letter be sent to the internet subscriber stating similarly what the first email had stated. If the user failed to refrain from downloading copyrighted material again, then the ISP's would be required to suspend internet access for anywhere between two months and one year.

Once a user has been denied Internet access, they are added to a blacklist that prohibits them from obtaining an Internet connection from other ISPs. Additionally, the user would still be responsible for any service contracts or the cost of terminating service.

One of the issues with this law originally was that there was no judicial review in the case where an individuals' Internet connection was disconnected. However, the defendant now can make an appeal to shorten, but not remove, the Internet block. Even so, Blocking Internet access is still seen as a potential breach of constitutional protection. In today's society, with the Internet being such a pervasive method of communication, it would become extremely difficult to operate without access to the Internet, emails, and information.

While the law's intent is to prevent piracy, it is also anti-privacy and anti-freedom of expression. The HADOPI law enables the agency to obtain private citizen data from ISPs without judicial review. Also, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, doesn't apply since the Internet user can only take action after a third offense is received. Additionally, Internet users will have no idea which sites are "safe" and which ones are not. The HADOPI agency intends to provide a way through information or software for citizens to legally surf the Internet. This is a very form of censorship that limits citizen's ability to speak freely on the Internet and view information without an Orwellian "Big Brother" watching over every move.