France Passes “Three-Strikes” Law for Second Time

Satisfies Constitutional Council’s concern that only a judge can disconnect accused file-sharers from the Internet, but also holds responsible those that unwittingly allow third parties to to use their connection for illegal file-sharing.

France’s lower house of parliament formally passed a revised “three-strikes” bill that will allow authorities to disconnect illegal file-sharers from the Internet.

First proposed back in June of last year, the “Creation and Internet” law was later successfully passed before being ruled unconstitutional by the country’s Constitutional Council for the use of 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.

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 new bill satisfied those concerns by now allowing a judge to make the “third strike” decision of either disconnecting an Internet user, a fine of up to 300,000 euros ($415,000USD),or a two-year jail sentence.

“Artists will remember that we at last had the courage to break with the laissez-faire approach and protect their rights from people who want to turn the net into their libertarian utopia,” remarked Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand.

The most frightening part is that even account holders who had nothing to do with the illegal file-sharing can be held accountable, risking a 1500 euro fine or month’s suspension of their Internet connection. So parents, entire households, or the simple unwitting victims of wi-fi piggybacking could find themselves without what the country’s Constitutional Council already concluded was essential for the “free communication of thoughts” and therefore full civic participation in a democracy.

The measure was passed on a vote of 285-225, close enough to make the issue far from over.

Stay tuned.

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