Top French legal body blocks Internet piracy law

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In an embarrassing blow for President Nicolas Sarkozy, France's top legal authority blocked an internet piracy law.

Paris – France's top legal authority Wednesday struck down a key provision of an Internet piracy law that would cut off offenders from the web, in an embarrassing blow for President Nicolas Sarkozy.

France's opposition Socialist Party had asked the Constitutional Council to rule on the legality of the contested law, which won final approval on May 13 after a stormy battle in parliament.

The law set up a new state agency, known by the acronym Hadopi, with the power to shut down Internet access for up to a year for those who download music and film illegally.

But the Constitutional Council ruled 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.

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.

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.

One of the toughest ever drafted in the global fight against Internet piracy, the 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.

Under a "three-strikes" system, offenders would first receive an email warning from the new state agency , then a letter and finally lose their Internet account for up to a year if they are caught a third time.

The state agency would act as a go-between for content providers and Internet service providers, to track and punish illegal downloader’s.

Opponents said the bill failed to give alleged offenders enough recourse to challenge accusations and argued that web innovations would make it possible for downloader’s to avoid detection.

AFP / Expatica

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