Finds that under the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man freedom of expression and communication are “prerequisite for democracy,” and being that the Internet is vital to both the right to access it must be protected.
It was almost a month ago that the French National Assembly defied the EU Parliament and passed the controversial “Creation and Internet” law that would create 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 were to receive two separate warnings about their illegal activities before losing Internet access for from 2 months up to a year, with the names of the “three-strikers” appearing on a blacklist to prevent ISP shopping.
That law’s now been ruled unconstitutional by France’s Constitutional Council after having been requested by the opposition Socialist Party to rule on its legality.
It concluded that under the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man only a judge should have the power to disconnect individuals from the Internet, arguing that the Internet is essential for the “free communication of thoughts” and therefore full civic participation in a democracy. To curtail basic freedoms will hence require a trial and judge’s order rather than that of a dedicated body (HADOPI).
The court ruling reads:
Under Article 11 of the Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely, except to respond to the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law “that the current means of communication and given the widespread development of communication services to the public line and the importance of these services for participation in democratic life and the expression of ideas and opinions, this right includes freedom to access these services;
What the Council basically found is that freedom of expression and communication are “prerequisite for democracy” and any attack on this freedom must be “necessary, appropriate and proportionate to the aim pursued.”
The Council did however, find that it’s legal to send warnings to suspected file-sharers on behalf of copyright holders.
Culture Minister Christine Albanel said the law would be “rapidly completed” to transfer the power to cut off Internet access to a judge, rather than a state agency.