Government Debates Three Strikes

The French government is to start discussing whether it should fight illegal file-sharing with the “three strikes” law, which would see repeat offenders disconnected from the Internet.

The French bill stipulates that users who download files illegally would receive an e-mail warning. Repeat offenders receive a second warning by registered post. If caught a third time, they are disconnected from the Internet for two months to a year.

IFPI chief John Kennedy has described the proposed “Internet And Creation Law” as “the most significant milestone yet in the task of curbing piracy on the Internet.”
It’s also won the backing of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, culture and communications minister Christine Albanel and the French senate.

Detractors say it’s too difficult to implement. They also say it would pit artists against their own public and would pose the risk that honest users could be unfairly penalized.

“It’s a bad text that presents a lot of problems and that opposes artists and Internet users. It will probably never be implemented,” said Patrick Bloche, who will speak for the opposition Socialists during the National Assembly debate.

“Artists need to make a living. We are ruining them. We must react and have the courage to take our responsibilities,” said Jean-Francois Cope of the ruling UMP party, which appears to have enough parliamentary support to get the bill passed, albeit at the expense of some compromise over the details.

Music companies have been hit hard by Internet piracy in recent years and the trend shows no sign of abating. About 95 percent of the music downloaded from the Internet around the world in 2008, or more than 40 billion files, was illegal.

The Socialists have said they will vote no, while a centrist group normally allied to the UMP is hesitating. Even a small number of UMP deputies have criticized the bill.
Consumer groups have said it would still be easy for hackers to use other computers’ IP addresses to download files.

In January, Irish Internet provider Eircom agreed to disconnect users who download music illegally in a settlement with four major record companies. Irish media said it was the first deal of its kind in the world.

In January, the U.K. government pledged to introduce forcing Internet providers to take action against users who infringe copyright, although it may stop short of the “three strikes and you’re out” policy the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has advocated.