French Parliament is today (Dec. 20) due to debate the controversial new digital copyright bill. If passed, the copyright and neighboring rights in the information society bill (DADVSI) would impose t

French Parliament is today (Dec. 20) due to debate the controversial new digital copyright bill.

If passed, the copyright and neighboring rights in the information society bill (DADVSI) would impose tough restrictions on digital copies of music, software and films.

The bill would allow content owners to include technical measures on CDs or DVDs that would prevent consumers from making digital copies, and would make it illegal to try to circumvent those measures.

The bill also introduces "gradual" penalties and enforcement procedure for individuals downloading copyright protected material for free from peer-to-peer services.

French minister of culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said that he believes the bill represents "a good balance" for protecting cultural works from widespread piracy.

Consumer group UFC-Que Choisir said the bill is likely to restrict individual freedom and calls for its postponement.

The text is likely to be seriously amended. The opposition Socialist party has already announced it will combat the tougher penalties introduced by the bill. It will also propose an amendment to introduce a blanket license system that would allow online users to pay a nominal fee for the unlimited access to content.

The blanket license is endorsed by collecting societies Adami (which represents performing artists) and Spedidam (on behalf of musicians). These bodies are regrouped with consumer groups under the coalition L'Alliance Public Artistes.

In a statement, labels' trade body SNEP argued that a blanket license would not compensate for the loss of revenues due to illegal file-sharing. Authors rights society Sacem is also opposed to the notion of a blanket license.

SNEP, however, said it was satisfied that the bill introduces the notion of liability for software companies providing tools allowing copyright infringement.

The discussion at the Lower House of Parliament will last two days. The text will then be sent to the Senate, under a streamlined emergency procedure.

The procedure was decided by the government to avoid tough financial penalties for failing to implement into French law the European Union Copyright Directive on copyright protection, which was passed in 2001.