French lawmakers eye Web piracy law

Would put in place a three-strikes scheme

PARIS -- Debates on the Creation and Internet draft law have started in the French Assembly.

The draft law would introduce a three-strike scheme, under which infringers could ultimately see their Internet access cut.

The text, adopted by the French Senate on Oct. 30, creates an independent administrative authority called HADOPI, which would be entitled to collect infringers' data from their ISPs following a request from rights holders. It could also instruct ISPs to cut an infringing user's Internet access for one month to one year, without any possibility for them to open another account with a different ISP.

The draft law also states that the phonographic industry must abandon DRM, something the record companies have started to comply with in anticipation of the legislation.

The adoption of the law is highly awaited by most of the music industry in France. "The draft law sets a frame... for a rapid expansion of legal music services and for sustaining an endangered creation," reads a statement issued by French producers body Snep.

The IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy also welcomed the French initiative, stating in a press release, "The music industry internationally strongly supports the Creation and Internet Law proposed by the French government. The proposal is good for a thriving music market in the 21st century, good for music consumers and good for artists, creators and producers whose rights need protecting in the digital world."

However, the text has strong opponents, with several members of parliament denouncing it during the debate as undermining users' freedom.

"We won't accept such a repressive project," added consumer organization UFC-Que Choisir's president Alain Bazot in a press conference in Paris. Bazot stressed that hacking a WiFi connection was easy to do and that it was therefore impossible to determine if an infringement was effectively made under the responsibility of an Internet access owner.

UFC suggests instead implementing a global license scheme, which would see end users pay a fixed monthly fee to be able to freely download on the web. The global license had been heavily discussed during former debates on copyright in 2005 but ultimately abandoned.

Debates at the Assembly are scheduled to end today (March 12). While the March 11 debate was dedicated to a general discussion about the law, the examination of the draft law will start today. It is likely that the text won't have been wholly discussed by the end of the day, in which case the debates might resume at the end of March, due to a heavy schedule in French Parliament.