French anti-piracy sanctions delayed

Decision regarding law will not be made until September

PARIS -- The French music business has expressed its disappointment after the National Assembly president's decision to postpone until September the vote on the sanctions side of the Creation and Internet law.

The decision is down to the lack of time available to examine the law before summer break at the end of the week. The opposing Socialist party has submitted a significant number of amendments for debate ahead of any vote.

While this does not impact on the eventual introduction of the law, the delay is another blow for a project that was first launched two years ago.

"Once again, rights holders are hostages of some deputies' political maneuvers," lamented labels' trade body Snep in a statement. Snep reiterated its call for clear "rules of the game."

The new law has created a new state agency, the Higher Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Copyright on the Internet (Hadopi), to oversee a system of educational warning letters, although it will not be able to administer the three-strikes measure to cut off consistent copyright infringers as originally planned.

After an intervention by France's Constitutional Council, which found that only a court could decide on cutting Internet access, the government said the law would be reworked so that a judge would be allowed to rule through an "ordonnance penale" (penal order). This process avoids a hearing involving the presence of the person accused of copyright infringement. Only in the case of an appeal would a court hearing take place.

While some Hadopi supporters now privately wonder whether the law will ever be voted through, the industry is in parallel getting ready for a global debate on the financing of creative works, which new minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand suggested. It could be organized before the end of the year.

In a statement expressing its "great disappointment and genuine anger" on the vote deferment, publishers and songwriters collecting society Sacem said: "While [our members] see their income from the phonograph market shrink year after year, month after month, with no compensation from [Internet Service Provider] online services to make up for their loss, because of the impact of piracy in particular, they solemnly ask the members of parliament to take their responsibilities to answer this institution of justice."

The Sacem statement added: "At the end of this process, it will be important, in all events, to assess the scope of the text and engage an essential debate on the funding of music and remuneration for rights holders, authors, composers and publishers having fully suffered the consequences of this crisis without having benefited in the least from any measures of support, whether on a national or a European level."