Music Biz Wants To Swap ISP Disconnections For Cash Fines

For years entertainment companies have put huge efforts into campaigns to inflict so-called "three strikes" campaigns on errant Internet users who download music and movies for free. The ultimate sanction of disconnection has always been touted as necessary in order for people to take things seriously but over in France, a country that pioneered graduated response, it seems that the music biz now wants to ditch disconnections in favor of fines.

For the last decade entertainment companies around the world have grappled with the problem of unauthorized file-sharing. They’ve tried shutting down sites, taking people to court, lobbying, bullying, and combinations of all of the above.

What the approaches have in common is that they’ve all largely failed to achieve the end goal. Perhaps realizing this, in more recent times rightsholders have been considering what results could be achieved through a more “educational” approach. This way of thinking has developed into various “strike” regimes, through which consumers are warned they’re being monitored in the hope that they take a different course of action in future.

Of course, the music business in particular has been swift to note that while people should be pushed in the right direction with a couple of warnings, ultimately there needs to be some kind of sanction – such as throttling or even complete disconnection of an infringer’s Internet account – should people fail to be persuaded.

After more than five years of lobbying this ultimate punishment was built into the French Hadopi scheme but despite the issuing of more than a million warnings, people just aren’t being disconnected. Not only is the measure unpopular and open to challenge, just last summer Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti described account suspension as “a disproportionate sanction against the end goal.”

So, with the disconnection option now pretty much dead in France, what could replace it as a deterrent? Getting hit in the pocket, it seems.

Noises coming out of Midem suggest that the French music industry is now putting its weight behind the implementation of a fining system.

UPFI, (Union of Independent Phonographic Producers), said that it agreed with the opinion of French music rights group SACEM that a disconnection regime should be replaced with warnings along with fines of 140 euros.

PCInpact contacted Jerome Roger, Director General of UPFI, who confirmed the group is indeed in favor of such fines.

This leaning towards cash penalties is also endorsed by Warner Music President Thierry Chassagne. In recent comments Chassange suggested that not enough punishments have been handed out under Hadopi and that a deterrent is necessary.

“There has not been a lot of repression. This part of the mission has failed,” Chassange said. “If we consider that downloading is illegal, it must be punished, it is not a novelty. I think a system of fines would be more proportionate.”

The so-called “six strikes” scheme in the United States (due to begin anytime now) has no disconnection option baked in, although some ISPs do have a clause in their terms of service which allows them to stop doing business with any customer over copyright abuse. However, if U.S. consumers still don’t get the message, one has to wonder how they would respond to $190 fines landing in their mailboxes.

Update: Our friends at Numerama have been told by sources familiar with the matter that it has already been 99% decided a new law will replace the internet suspension sanction with administrative fines (which means they would not be issued by a court after due process, but issued automatically by an administrative body).

“Discussions remain as to how to set the thing up in the law ; the automatic fine system could be handled by a dedicated administrative authority, such as the current Hadopi’s Rights Protection Commitee ; or by the Superior Audiovisual Concil, which is the current administrative body for television and radio. The new law will be debated in Parliement in early 2013,” Numerama editor Guillaume Champeau told TorrentFreak.

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