French Senate adopts rejigged Internet piracy bill

9th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The French Senate adopted a revamped version of a contested Internet piracy bill, after the original text was struck down.

Paris – The French Senate Wednesday adopted a revamped version of a contested Internet piracy bill, after the original text was struck down as unconstitutional in a blow to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Adopted by the upper-house Senate, where Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party holds a clear majority, the new bill will head to the National Assembly in the coming weeks for its definitive adoption.

Championed by Sarkozy and singer-turned-first lady Carla Bruni, the original anti-piracy law was adopted in May after a stormy parliament battle, but was blocked the following month by France's top legal authority.

The Constitutional Council objected to a key provision, which gave a new state agency, known by the acronym Hadopi, the power to shut down web access for up to a year for those who download music and films illegally.

Defended before the Senate by Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, the new bill shifts the final decision on cutting off web users from the state agency to the courts.

On the third strike, the agency would report offenders to a judge, who would hand down either an Internet ban, a fine of up to EUR 300,000 (USD 415,000) or a two-year jail sentence, under a fast-track ruling system.

Account holders found guilty of "negligence" for allowing a third party to pirate music or films using their web connection, would risk a EUR 1,500 fine and a month-long suspension.

One of the toughest ever drafted in the global fight against Internet piracy, the original bill enjoyed broad support from the music and film industry in France and abroad, but was opposed by consumer groups, the Internet industry and the left-wing opposition.

Opponents said it failed to give alleged pirates enough recourse to challenge accusations and argued that web innovations would make it possible for illegal downloaders to avoid detection.

The Constitutional Council had agreed that only a judge should have the power to strike an individual from the Internet, arguing that "free access to public communication services on line" was a human right.

Council members, who include former French presidents, based their ruling on the preamble to the French constitution, which lists freedom of communication and expression as a basic right.

Opposition lawmakers have complained that the reworked bill still gives web users too little opportunity to challenge piracy accusations.

AFP / Expatica

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