France’s “Three-Strikes” Law Defeated

Fact that many lawmakers were on Easter vacation, 519 out of 555,  allowed Socialist Party opponents to defeat the bill 21-15,

In a surprising twist off fate, France’s controversial “Three-Strikes” law that called for the disconnecting of repeat file-sharers from the Internet has been defeated in a shocking vote yesterday by the National Assembly.

Many lawmakers took an early Easter recess and missed Thursday’s vote, which was 21 to 15 out of 555 total members, against the “Creation and Internet” law. The number opposed was higher than expected, even for a reduced turnout, because it contained a clause not approved in the previous April 2 vote, whereby accused file-sharers would still have to pay for their Internet access even after they had been disconnected. The clause even compelled two members of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s own majority govt to vote against it.

Opponents also warned that there was little recourse to prove one’s innocence and that the punishment didn’t fit the crime. After all, they argued, Internet connections are an essential part of modern life — not just a means for pilfering MP3s.

The socialist parliamentarian Patrick Bloche said the bill was “dangerous, useless, inefficient, and very risky for us citizens.”

Roger Karoutchi, the Minister for Relations with Parliament, called the rejection a “blow against artistic creativity and a bad blow for French artists.”

Minister of Culture Christine Albanel said the vote was a “trap,” a commedia dell’arte pathetic” set up by the Socialist opposition to frustrate adoption of the law.

“15 Socialists were stashed in a hallway and appeared at the last moment in the Chamber (to vote),” she said (GOOGLE TRANSLATION). “There was no defection from the majority side, and the Socialists are well aware of the pathetic side of the operation.”

The measure would’ve created the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet (HADOPI), a new govt agency whose task it would be to sanction those accused of illegal file-sharing. Offenders would receive two separate warnings about their illegal activities before losing Internet access for up to a year, with the names of the “three-strikers” appearing on a blacklist to prevent ISP shopping.

The music industry is obviously disappointed by the development.

“It is disappointing that the law was not confirmed today, but we understand that the French Government will be resubmitting the law very shortly,” said John Kennedy, Chairman and CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in a statement. “President Sarkozy has been a true champion of intellectual property rights and the proposed law is an effective and proportionate way of tackling online copyright infringement and migrating users to the wide variety of legal music services in France.”

Opponents have also pointed out that users downloading from public WiFi hotspots or using masked IP addresses might be impossible to trace. Others called its proposed monitoring structures unrealistic.

“It is a bad response to a false problem,” said Jeremie Zimmerman, coordinator of the Quadrature du Net, a Paris-based Internet activist group that opposed the bill, calling it “completely impossible to apply.”

The government said the bill will be submitted to a new vote by both the Senate and the Assembly after the Easter holidays, without giving exact dates.

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