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France Examines Even Tougher Anti-Piracy Laws

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Regulatory body issues first report aimed at curbing the streaming and downloading of copyrighted content.

PARIS: Already home to some of the strictest anti-piracy laws for users, France’s Internet Authority (HADOPI) has  issued a new report examining ways to curb usage of streaming and direct download sites.  

Looking to stop piracy at the source, the report suggests a combination of techniques including site blocking or domain seizures if operators do not comply.

The authority suggests the implementation of content recognition by site owners, including digital fingerprinting technology. These systems could be used to remove content upon the request of copyright holders, similar to YouTube or DailyMotion, or restrict user access based on location.  

If site operators are unwilling to add these mechanisms or if illegal content reappears on the site, the report suggests initial steps such as search engine de-listings. If sites fail to comply with the warnings, HADOPI suggests it could also resort to involving the the courts in order to seize or permanently block the domains.  

The agency would also seek to target the finances of any sites subject to the copyright alerts, taking steps to block PayPal accounts, the use of credit cards and third party advertising. Again looking to the courts, HADOPI suggests that if financial partners refused to cooperate, it would seek legal action.

Since 2010, the country has had a "three-strikes" warning system to combat torrenting, but while HADOPI has seen “a clear downtrend in illegal P2P” usage, the new report focuses on streaming and direct downloading sites (DDL) which the agency sees as sites that are “specialized in the massive exploitation of illegal content.”

The current system sends a series of warnings to users before alerting the authorities. By the end of 2012, 3 million IP addresses had been issued a first warning, but only 14 were referred to French prosecutors after a ‘third strike.’  In September 2012, the first case was sent to court with the account owner found guilty for his wife’s downloading of Rihanna songs and ultimately receiving a fine of $196 (150), though the court decided against terminating the account.  

ISPs in the U.S. have just followed suit with the Copyright Alert System (CAS), a similar “six-strikes” warning system, that was launched earlier this week.

The HADOPI report will be reviewed further before the agency decides on any action.