French Anti-Piracy Bill Fails Surprisingly

The National Assembly vote for the revised HADOPI law has been unfavorable

The proposed three-strike anti-piracy legislation, also known as HADOPI, was subjected to a decisive vote in the French National Assembly on April 9. Contrary to expectations, the law failed to pass, the members present voting 15 in favour and 21 against.

This is a surprising outcome, because the bill previously received favorable votes in both chambers of the French Parliament. The upper chamber, the Senate, voted for a more stricter form of the legislation project on 30 October, 2008, while the lower chamber, called the National Assembly, cast its favorable vote on April 2nd, 2009.

The differences between the two forms of the bill were then settled by a joint commission, formed by members of the two chambers, and sent back for a decisive vote to the National Assembly, which is the pre-eminent body of the Parliament. The French journal Le Monde points out (in French) that a vote rejecting the outcome of a joint commission has not happened for the past 26 years, the last time occurring in 1983.

The proposed law allows copyright holders to monitor file-sharing networks for infringement on their creations and works and report any abuse to a new body, called the High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (HADOPI in French). The Internet "pirates" will initially receive a warning, followed by a suspension of their Internet access for three months, and another for an entire year for such repeated behavior.

The MPs who voted unfavorably are said to have protested against the re-introduction of the "double punishment" into the text by the joint commission, under pressure from the Senate members. This refers to a stipulation that requires people accused of copyright infringement to continue to pay for the Internet subscription for the period of their suspension. This provision was not present in the text, which passed the vote of the National Assembly on April 2, but was in the Senate version.

"This is a formidable victory for all citizens. This vote shows that it is still possible to make oneself heard. It is a fantastic example of how to use the Net to fight against those who are trying to control it. Individual liberties, in the end, have not been sacrificed to try to preserve the corporate interests of some obsolete industries. The HADOPI law has been interred earlier than expected," Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of La Quadrature du Net, a French civil liberties group, commented.

France is not the only country where such legislation is considered. Similar three-strikes anti-piracy bills failed to pass in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, but the French one, in its current form, also comes into conflict with laws of the European Union.

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