France Drops Key Part of Controversial Anti-Piracy Law

The so-called "Hadopi law," implemented in 2009, called for convicted people's Internet access to be turned off, but only one user was ever sentenced to such a suspension.

PARIS – Following a recent report that recommended axing the authority of the government’s anti-piracy arm to suspend individual’s Internet access, the French government announced Tuesday that a key portion of the law has been overturned. 

Under the so-called "Hadopi law," implemented in 2009, only one user was sentenced to a suspension of Internet access for 15 days and a fine of €600, with an additional user convicted with a fine of €150 and a second one convicted without penalty. 

The provision to suspend Internet access for individuals convicted of illegal downloading has been mired in controversy since the Constitutional Council – France’s high court – had declared access to the Web a basic human right. “We have always said that cutting access was a disproportionate penalty,” said culture minister Aurelie Filippetti, who signed the decree dropping the portion of the law Tuesday morning.

The “three-strikes” policy resulted in two million warnings being sent, with 186,000 second warnings, though several cases are still being examined by prosecutors.

The government did not agree to the demands of the entertainment industry here, which had hoped for automatic fines to be put in place, instead still leaving each case to be individually examined by a judge.

Mireille Imbert-Quaretta, president of the Commission for Protection of Rights, which oversees the implementation of the anti-piracy law, said the first warnings were effective. "After an initial warning by e-mail, 95 percent of people stop the downloads," she said last September. 

In its recent audit, the commission said that illegal downloading has become less prevalent since 2011, declining from 66 percent to 17 percent. However, it noted that this data is for peer-to-peer downloads only. Online users have often switched to illegal streaming, it added.