Legal Authority Kills French Three-Strikes Law

The French Hadopi legislation passed last month introduced draconian measures to combat piracy, including a “three strikes” regime for persistent copyright infringers. However, France's highest constitutional authority today ruled that Internet access is a fundamental human right and killed the three-strikes provision.

Last month, the French Parliament implemented the new ‘Hadopi’ law. Under the new legislation ISPs have to send warnings to alleged copyright infringers, who would eventually lose their Internet access upon receiving their third warning. In addition, the new law would make it possible to order ISPs to block sites such as The Pirate Bay.

The law goes directly against a decision from the European Parliament, which concluded that disconnecting alleged copyright infringers would violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of Internet users. Despite public protest, the law was backed by a majority in the French parliament and was adopted quite easily last month.

Now, in an unforeseen turn of events the Constitutional Council, France’s highest legal authority, took a similar position as the European Parliament. They deemed the provision that would cause people to lose their Internet access unconstitutional, and stopped it. Instead, the entertainment industry is only allowed to send copyright infringement warnings, something they’ve already done in the past.

The role of the High Authority (Hadopi) is to warn the downloader that he has been spotted, but not to punish him,” the Council concluded, arguing that Internet access is a fundamental human right.

The ruling by the Constitutional Council said that people can only lose their Internet connection if a court rules that illegal sharing actually took place. This also addresses one of the most serious concerns of the public who feared that they might be disconnected based on erroneous evidence.

With the uproar caused in France by the “three strikes” law, and the earlier decision of the European Parliament it seems unlikely that other European countries will propose similar measures. Especially not with two Pirates sitting down in Brussels.

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