France Starts Reporting ‘Millions’ of File-Sharers

This week the controversial French three-strikes anti-piracy law Hadopi went live. Copyright holders are currently in the process of sending out tens of thousands of IP-addresses of alleged infringers to Internet service providers, and this will increase to over a million in a few weeks. The ISPs have to hand over the identities of the associated accounts to the authorities within a week, or face a fine of 1500 euros per unidentified IP-address.

Under France’s new Hadopi law, alleged copyright infringers will be hunted down systematically in an attempt to decrease piracy. Alleged offenders have to be identified by their Internet providers and they will be reported to a judge once they have received three warnings.

A judge will then review the case and hand down any one of a range of penalties, from fines through to disconnecting the Internet connection of the infringer.

The French anti-piracy outfit Trident Media Guard has been chosen by the entertainment industry to monitor and report illegal uploaders in France. The company, known globally for its pollution of BitTorrent and other file-sharing networks with fake data, recently started tracking down thousands of illicit file-sharers.

According to a report from PCINpact one of the major ISPs confirmed that the first batch of IP-addresses was submitted just a few days ago. This is the final step before alleged file-sharers receive warning letters.

The scope of the operation is mind boggling. The copyright holders will start relatively ‘slowly’ with 10,000 IP-addresses a day, but within weeks this number is expected to go up to 150,000 IP-addresses per day according to official reports.

The Internet providers will be tasked with identifying the alleged infringers’ names, addresses, emails and phone numbers. If they fail to do so within 8 days they risk a fine of 1,500 euros per day for every unidentified IP-address.

To put this into perspective, a United States judge ruled recently that the ISP Time Warner only has to give up 28 IP-addresses a month (< 1 per day) to copyright holders because of the immense workload the identifications would cause.

All the major French ISPs have to cooperate with the identification process, and the first 'victims' are expected to be disconnected or fined in a few months when they receive their third warning. At this point it is doubtful whether Hadopi will in fact decrease the piracy rate.

There are quite a few options for BitTorrent users to file-share anonymously, and other download options such as Usenet are not monitored at all.

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