French bill would ban Internet use for illegal downloaders

France's Cultural Minister Christine Albanel introduced a bill to discourage the consumption of pirated media, under the threat of revoking the perpetrator's Internet access. Yesterday, that bill was approved by the Council of Ministers.

In addition to establishing the creation of a new state agency to be called HADOPI (High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet), the "key measure" of Albanel's project is the three-strikes policy (or riposte graduée, lit. "gradual response") it will impose upon illegal downloaders.

If passed, HADOPI will "be responsible for the collection of IP addresses through which illegal downloads of protected material have been made." When a user is found to have been downloading illegally, the High Authority will warn him via e-mail -- the first strike. Upon the second violation, he'll be sent an official letter to "ensure the person is fully aware of the alleged breach."

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Punishment begins at the third violation. The user's Internet subscription, through cross-industry agreements with local ISPs, will be suspended from a period of three months to one year. Albanel noted in a press conference yesterday, "If the subscriber is conciliatory, and endeavors not to download illegally any further, the suspension of the subscription will be reduced." The bill provides for alternate measures in the case of illegal downloads at one's workplace.

According to Reuters, an 80% reduction in piracy is the goal for the three-strikes system. The HADOPI bill is expected to be voted upon in Parliament in the fall of 2008. If passed, it will take effect at the beginning of 2009.

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