Thursday, 11th June 2009
Nancy Davis Kho
Last month the French National Assembly, with support from President Nicolas Sarkozy passed a "three strikes" bill which would get digital pirates where it hurts - in their Internet access. http://digbig.com/4yxes The French bill, which passed by a 296 to 233 margin after being rejected a month earlier, stipulates that digital pirates caught illegally sharing copyrighted materials three times would have Internet services suspended. The new measure created a brand new government agency, HADOPI (the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet), which was to send notices to illegal file sharers.
The French bill was particularly harsh given that the European Parliament adopted an amendment in May saying, "Internet access is a fundamental right such as the freedom of expression and the freedom to access information." http://digbig.com/4yxer. The same month, it passed a measure prohibiting EU member governments from terminating a user's Internet access without a court order.
It wasn't EU pressure but French courts who have dealt a blow to France's tough new law. On June 11th the French Constitutional Council, the country's highest legal authority, rejected a key provision that would have given a newly created government agency the authority to cut off Internet access to those deemed to be copyright scofflaws after two warnings. According to a CNet story on the ruling (http://digbig.com/4yxep) , 'The council said "free access to public communication services on line" was a human right that only a judge should have the power to disconnect. '
No defending the pirates here, though I agree that the French may have gone too far. What's amazing to me about this ruling is to reflect that 15 years ago, the Internet was still in its infancy; less than two decades later, it's considered a fundamental human right, as important to citizens as a right to free education.
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