In the latter years of the previous decade a new idea for dealing with piracy was gathering momentum. Known as “three strikes” or “graduated response”, the system was based on the understanding that pirates could be persuaded to change their ways – if they believed they were being watched.
After years of planning, in the fall of 2010 France became one of the pioneers of the warning system. Its introduction was controversial. Since the initial rules dictated that persistent offenders (and potentially innocent account holders) should be kicked off the Internet, fears persisted that thousands of families could be denied Internet access.
This week marks the five year anniversary of the French program and the event has been commemorated by the overseeing Hadopi agency with the release of statistics relating to the past 60 months of anti-piracy activities.
Since September 2010, more than 5,400,000 initial warning notices have been sent to French Internet account holders. In the same period 504,000 individuals received a second notice, which indicates that less than 10% of first time offenders managed to get caught twice.
Perhaps most impressive at first view is the number of account holders receiving a third notice. According to Hadopi just 2,900 received a final ‘strike’, that’s just 0.57% of those who failed to heed the second warning.
But despite the potential for massive disconnections, that was never to be. After disconnecting its first ‘pirate’ for two weeks back in June 2013, the following month the government outlawed the measure in favor of a system of fines.
In the months and years that followed 2,336 “third strike” investigations took place, with just 400 of reportedly the most serious cases being referred for prosecution.
Hadopi detailed the outcome of some of those cases this week. They include a persistent film pirate who was fined 300 euros and a uTorrent user who admitted distributing pre-release content (300 euros). An account holder who failed to appear at a hearing to discuss both music (a Rihanna track) and movie piracy (Despicable Me 2) picked up two fines of 500 euros each.
In theory fines under Hadopi can reach 1,500 euros but it appears that no case has been considered serious enough to impose the full amount.
So, given the apparent tiny numbers of repeat offenders, is France on its way to solving the piracy riddle? That’s very difficult to say but what we do know is that the figures cited above aren’t the full story.
Back in July the agency revealed that it had received more than 37 million complaints but had only managed to process a fraction of them. This means that it’s possible that many first, second and third time offenders have actually been ‘caught’ by anti-piracy monitoring companies but the notices have not been sent through the system.
Hadopi estimates that it currently processes around 50% of all reports, around 50,000 notifications every day. This means that around 100,000 notices are sent by rightsholders but 50,000 potential first, second and third strikes are thrown away.
Hadopi says its target is to process every notice it receives but whether that will be achieved next year or in another five years time will remain to be seen.