French 3 Strikes: Court Fines First File-Sharer, Even Though He’s Innocent

It's been a long time coming but today the controversial French 'Hadopi' anti-piracy law has claimed its first scalp. After his account was connected to a series of previous infringements, a 40 year-old man was summoned to court today. Despite a third-party admitting that the music piracy in question was carried out by them and not the accused, the court still decided to fine the account holder.

For almost two years France has been running its controversial “3 strikes” mechanism to deal with the issue of online digital media piracy.

Alleged pirates are sent three warnings before being punished, giving them plenty of time to either mend their ways or take other measures to stop infringements being logged against their accounts.

Since October 2010, rightholders have identified a total of 3 million French IP addresses. Of these, Hadopi considered 1.15 million worthy of a “first strike” notice, 102,854 deserving of a second, and just 340 in line for a third.

From these, Hadopi referred just 14 cases to French prosecutors. Today the first persistent pirate, a craftsman from a small village in eastern France, was summoned to court to receive his punishment, potentially a 1,500 euro fine.

“He was warned three times by the Hadopi, without responding to these warnings,” Marc Rees of PCInpact told TorrentFreak.

Rees notes that the details behind the initial warnings are not available, but interestingly the man told the court today that he is incapable of downloading and did not commit the infringements. Supporting his claims he brought into court the person actually responsible for the file-sharing.

The actual infringer was the man’s soon-to-be ex-wife. She admitted downloading Rihanna songs but according to Guillaume Champeau of Numerama her confession may have actually hindered the case against her husband.

“By saying he knew she was downloading infringing content, but didn’t prevent her from doing so, he self-incriminated,” he told TorrentFreak.

According to the Hadopi law it doesn’t matter that the man didn’t carry out the infringements himself – as the owner of the Internet connection in question he is responsible for what happens on it.

The court (le Tribunal de Police de Belfort) found the man guilty of failing to secure his Internet connection. The prosecution asked for a 300 euro fine with 150 euros suspended, but the court settled on a flat fine of 150 euros.

The ultimate sanction, of terminating the 40-year-old’s Internet account, was not applied by the court.

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