France Disconnects First File-Sharer From the Internet

France is seen as the pioneer of so-called "three strikes" anti-piracy legislation, in which repeated file-sharing offenders are disconnected from the Internet. This week, following the issuing of millions of warning notices, the law has finally resulted in the first disconnection. The news comes as somewhat of a surprise since the Hadopi regime is set to be scrapped after doing little to stop online piracy.

runningAfter three years and millions of warning letters, the French three-strikes anti-piracy law ‘Hadopi’ has resulted in the first Internet disconnection.

The customer in question will be without Internet access for two weeks and must also pay a 600 euro fine. Quoting officials, PC Inpact reports that the file-sharer was caught sharing one or two files and failed to respond to earlier warnings.

If no appeal is filed within 10 days the file-sharer’s Internet provider will move forward with the disconnection. For 15 days the customer will be denied access to the Internet, but the ISP must ensure that e-mail, instant messaging and other VOIP services continue to work.

The sentencing comes at a peculiar time. Last month a nine-member panel recommended that the Government scraps the Hadopi agency, the body that currently oversees the graduated response system.

In a detailed report the panel concluded that although there was a reduction in file-sharing on P2P networks such as BitTorrent, there had also been an increase in use of other services such as streaming sites and cyberlockers which are not covered by Hadopi. In addition the panel concluded that the three-strikes scheme had failed to benefit legal services.

The ineffectiveness of the three-strikes policy was confirmed two weeks ago by a music industry group. In a separate report the group concluded that the anti-piracy law had failed to halt the decline in music sales.

But while Hadopi might be dead soon, file-sharing penalties are not going away.

Based on a recommendation from the panel, the Government now plans to replace the current system of Internet disconnections with automated fines. Under Hadopi, fines extended to a theoretical maximum of around 1,500 euros, but these are now expected to be reduced to around 60 euros each, but with increases applied to repeat offenders.

The Government presented the new automated warning system as a better deal, since no one would be at risk of losing access to the Internet. However, at the time of the announcement this statement made little sense.

“They pretended it would be a better deal for internet users, but it wasn’t. No one had been convicted to a suspension of Internet access, and we all believed no one ever would. With the recent conviction they can now claim they are right, and defend their new legislation,” Guillaume Champeau of French news site Numerama told TorrentFreak in a comment.

“The timing is really the best one possible for the Government. But was the sentencing totally independent, or did it follow instructions that suited a political agenda?”

Despite having the first conviction in the bag, the Hadopi law will go down in history as a failed experiment. However, the announced changes are certainly no win for file-sharers as the automated system takes away judicial oversight, opening up the possibility of thousands of people being issued with fines every week.

Time will tell whether that’s going to happen.

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