by FMC Policy Intern Cody Duncan
image: Môsieur J., under Creative Commons license
In June 2013, we discussed an emerging report that the French government was considering repealing portions of its HADOPI law, commonly referred to as “three-strikes.” The report suggested, among other things, eliminating the most aggressive (and controversial) portion of its anti-piracy provisions, which subjected users to suspension of Internet service after two infringement violations. While French officials were quick to point out that the report was merely a report of suggestions, it now appears that the suggestions were taken seriously, and the proposed changes have been enacted.
The former system of notices, fines, and the threat of shut-off has been reduced to one of small, “graduated” fines, with an emphasis on education over punishment. With this, the French government has made a shift from a policy of individual enforcement to a focus on informing users and reducing large-scale commercial copyright infringement. In effect, this brings French copyright enforcement closer to the current Copyright Alert System (CAS) of the United States (sometimes referred to as the “six-strikes” system). The CAS is similarly focused on the elimination of commercial infringement and informing users both that their illicit activity has been noticed and that there are easy and legal alternatives to piracy. A key difference between the two systems is that, while the French policy is law, the CAS is a private voluntary agreement between major rights-holders and participating ISPs.
While thousands of warnings were sent out under France’s “three-strikes” law, the final enforcement measure (temporary disconnection) was only applied to a single user. Also, both HADOPI and the CAS are in their infancy. As such, because the shape of the music market, with the rise of streaming services and the occasional pop phenomenon, is changing so rapidly, the efficacy of either system in combatting online piracy is — so far, anyway — extremely difficult to determine.