The “three-strikes” saga continues in France following the Constitutional Council’s recent decision canceling the sanction side of the bill (Billboard.biz, June 10), with the government attempting to find a way around the legal ruling.
While the educational part of the bill, which allows the administrative authority Hadopi to issue warnings to infringers, had been passed into law, a short new bill on the sanction side of the anti-piracy system has now been approved by government ministers to be introduced as legislation.
The French government had wanted Hadopi to be able to cut off repeat offenders after two warnings. With the Constitutional council having stressed that only a judge can rule on such terminations of Internet access, the new bill intends to simplify procedures to avoid French courts, which would slow the sanction process.
Instead, a judge would be allowed to rule through an “ordonnance pénale” (penal order), a process that avoids a hearing involving the presence of the person accused of copyright infringement. Only in the case of an appeal would a court hearing take place.
Under the new proposals, the cutting of Internet access would also be added to the sanctions the judge would be entitled to apply in cases involving counterfeiting in relation to intellectual property. The law until now allowed fines of up to €300,000 ($418,000) and three years imprisonment.
The government is also believed to cautiously considering a system of automatic fines for users neglecting to protect their Internet connection in cases of file-sharing on that particular line. This would aim to prevent any defence on the basis that someone else, such as a neighbor, had accessed the Internet connection.
This scheme – likely to be hugely controversial – would allow sanctions to be pronounced quickly in the case of infringement, and would not require immediate proof that the Internet subscriber was the individual who actually illegally downloaded files.
The new draft now has to be discussed by the French Senate and National Assembly and discussions should start in July. If it is adopted by both chambers, it is likely that it would be challenged again by its opponents in front of the Constitutional council.
The bill is to be carried by the newly appointed minister of justice Michèle Alliot-Marie. French minister of culture Christine Albanel, who carried the “three-strikes” bill, left the government yesterday (June 24), as part of broader government reorganization decided by President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister François Fillon.
Albanel has been replaced in her role by Frédéric Mitterrand, a writer and TV producer who was, since 2008, the director of the French arts academy in Rome, “Villa Medicis.” He is the nephew of former French president François Mitterrand.