French assembly adopts anti-piracy bill

Three-strikes law tackles illegal file-sharing

PARIS -- The French National Assembly on Tuesday adopted the sanctions side of the three-strikes Creation and Internet bill to tackle illegal file-sharing, by 285 votes in favor and 225 against.

It follows the first part of the law passed in June, which 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.

The French government had wanted Hadopi to be able to cut off repeat offenders after two warnings, but France's Constitutional council found in June that only a judge can rule on such terminations of Internet access. The bill adopted today states that a judge will be allowed to rule through an "ordonnance penale" (penal order), a simplified process that should enable swift rulings on such cases.

The bill had been approved by French Senate in July, but the Assembly's vote had been postponed because of the lack of time available to examine the law before the summer break. This had caused the exasperation of the recording industry, anxious to see the law designed to circumvent online piracy finally adopted.

In a joint statement issued Monday, French organizations Snep, UPFI, Sacem and CSDEM, respectively representing labels (major and independent), songwriters and publishers, stressed, "All the players in the music business have been mobilized with determination for months in favor of this system for regulating exchanges on the Internet, since it should put an end to years of laissez-faire resulting in a sharp erosion of their income."

In order to become law, the bill still has to be redrafted by a commission of seven senators and seven members of parliament -- a routine measure to create a final draft that is acceptable to both houses of Parliament -- and voted through by both the Senate and National Assembly.

This won't be the last step though, as the opposing Parti Socialiste has already announced they would challenge the law again in front of the Constitutional Council, notably because they consider the ordonnance penale deprives potential offenders with the ability to defend themselves properly.

Immediately after the vote, French minister of Culture and Communication Frederic Mitterrand praised the deputies for their choice and announced he would submit a plan to improve online legal offerings for creative works to French president Nicolas Sarkozy and prime minister Francois Fillon by the end of the year. "By then, Hadopi 1 and 2 will be operational," he announced.

Last week, Mitterrand appointed Patrick Zelnik, CEO of French independent label Naive, to lead a mission on improving online legal offer for creative works, to end mid November.