For more than a decade, French anti-piracy agency Hadopi had made headlines in its quest to reduce illicit sharing on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent.
France became a pioneer of the so-called “graduated response” system back in 2010, with Hadopi chasing down persistent copyright infringers with threats to disconnect them from the Internet. Since then, however, many aspects of the piracy scene have changed and France believes that change is needed to better tackle today’s threats.
Bill Presented to Council of Ministers
This week, France’s Council of Ministers was presented with a new bill that aims to more tightly regulate and protect access to cultural works in the digital age.
“Much awaited by cultural and audiovisual professionals, this text provides concrete answers to three major challenges in the field of audiovisual communication in the digital age: the protection of rights, the organization of our regulation, and the defense of public access to French cinematographic and audiovisual works which constitute our heritage,” a statement from the Ministry of Culture reads.
The bill’s aims are split into three broad sections, two of which deal with piracy matters – the protection of creators’ rights and the modernization of regulation.
Protection of Creators’ Rights
A key aim of the bill is to make it much harder for sites that profit commercially from the distribution of infringing content to operate freely. Under the current system, much focus had been placed on French Internet users using P2P networks to share content but with a shift towards other technologies, France sees a need to upgrade its toolbox.
“This bill thus strengthens the means of combating counterfeiting on the internet against streaming, direct download or indexing/linking websites, which profit from the posting of works in violation of the rights of creators,” the Ministry says.
In particular, the bill will see the creation of a centralized “blacklisting” system for blocking pirate sites, restricting their appearances in search engines, and preventing them from generating revenue from advertising, for example.
The bill also aims to establish a system to combat “mirrors”, sites that help to facilitate access to platforms blocked as part of earlier enforcement actions. In addition, France wants to create a new mechanism to deal with piracy of live sporting events, one that is able to cope with the urgency associated with preventing access in real-time.
Modernization of Regulation
In 2019, France’s Ministry of Culture revealed early plans to create a powerful authority capable of regulating both audiovisual and digital communications by merging Hadopi with the country’s electronic media regulator. Those plans are moving ahead.
“To implement these new innovative and ambitious anti-piracy tools, the bill creates a new regulator, marking both the desire to move up a gear in the fight against pirate sites and to include this action in a broader policy of regulation of online content,” the Ministry notes.
The plan is to merge Hadopi with the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA) to create the Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority (ARCOM), an agency with greater powers and jurisdiction over the entire field of audiovisual content, “whether that is to fight piracy, protect minors or defend the public against online disinformation and hatred.”
The bill will now be discussed by the French Parliament.