9% of French Internet Subscribers Accused of Piracy

French anti-piracy authority Hadopi has revealed that in the first four years of its operations it sent initial file-sharing warnings to 9% of French Internet subscribers. Just over 10% of those subscriber accounts went on to receive a second warning, with just 0.4% getting a third. Overall, 116 individuals went on to the court stage.

warningFrance was one of the first countries in the world to consider implementing a “three strikes” style regime for dealing with online piracy. The system was implemented four years ago and ever since has been under scrutiny as both rightsholders and critics assess its efficacy.

Hadopi, the authority responsible for administering the scheme, has just published its latest report presenting its key figures to July 1 this year and they make interesting reading.

The cornerstone of the scheme is the warning system, with great importance attached to the first notices sent to subscribers. If the anti-infringement message can be successfully delivered at this stage, fewer follow-ups will be required.

Hadopi reveals that since it sent the very first warning notice in 2009, the agency has gone on to send 3,249,481 first warnings to Internet subscribers. It’s a sizable amount that represents almost 9% of all Internet users in France.

The big question, however, is how many took action to avoid receiving a second warning. According to Hadopi, during the same period it sent 333,723 second phase warnings by regular mail, a re-offending rate of just over 10%.

Those who receive first and second warnings but still don’t get the message go on to receive a third notice. Hadopi says that a total of 1,502 Internet subscribers received three warnings, just 0.45% of those who were sent a second.

The agency’s figures state that a large proportion of this group, 1,289 overall, had their cases examined by Hadopi’s committee. Of these, 116 cases went before a judge. Most received yet another warning.

Also of interest are the reactions of 31,379 subscribers who telephoned Hadopi after receiving an infringement notice.

According to the agency, 35% “spontaneously agreed” the accuracy of the facts set out in their warnings, with around 25% engaging or offering to take measures to avoid content being made available from their connections in the future. Reportedly less than 1% challenged the facts as laid out.

On the education front, over the past six months around 72,000 users have accessed an information video on the Hadopi website, while 49,000 sought information on what to do after receiving a warning.

The figures presented by Hadopi French, (pdf) clearly show a low re-offending rate, with an impressive gap between those receiving first and second warnings. Hadopi sees this as an indicator of the system’s success, although there is always the possibility that subscribers wised-up on security and safer methods of downloading after getting the first notice.

That being said, the agency counters this notion by citing figures from a small poll carried out among letter recipients which found that 73% of those who received a warning did not subsequently shift to another method of illegal downloading. However, that doesn’t mean they all jumped on the iTunes bandwagon either.

“Receiving a warning does not result in a massive shift towards legal offers,” Hadopi explains.

Overall, 23% of respondents who received a warning said they went on to use a legal service. That suggests that three quarters simply dropped off the media consumption radar altogether, which doesn’t sound like a realistic proposition.

Next year will see half a decade of graduated response in France. Will media sales have gone through the roof as a result? Time will tell, but it seems highly unlikely.

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