Don't pirate content in France: That's the mantra of the country's High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet law (HADOPI 2), but it's not clear that its intended audience has received the message loud and clear.
The three-strikes-and-you're-banned law is designed to sever copyright infringers from the ability to purchase service from any French ISP if they're found guilty of pirating online material. That's after a series of two warning letters and some face-time in front of a French judge, who has the capacity to assign fines of up to €300,000, as well as jail time.
However, new research is indicating that HADOPI's effect on filesharing might not be as pronounced as lawmakers might have hoped, even given the law's tough stance toward online piracy. Ars Technica reports that French researchers at the University of Rennes have found a three-percent increase for online copyright infringement since HADOPI's inception.
For what it's worth, HADOPI's punishments aren't currently being enforced. But even though online pirates have yet to receive warning letters or service termination, the threat of HADOPI has been enough to deter their activities somewhat. The aforementioned researchers noted that online file infringement has lessened on P2P services after the law's passage—of 2,000 surveyed participants, 15 percent indicated that they had ceased their P2P-downloading ways.
Removing the platform hasn't removed the desire, however. Two-thirds of this very same group went on to indicate that they now found their copyright material on other sources that don't fall under HADOPI's watch, including streaming services and HTTP-based download hosts (think RapidShare).
From Ars Technica:
"While this might sound depressing to HADOPI's backers, the study also has some surprising news about pirates: many of them buy. Half of the people who said they purchase digital music or video online also said they pirated some material. Twenty-seven percent of all digital media buyers are "Hadopi pirates" (ie, P2P users), while the other 23 percent rely on streaming and downloads. As the researchers note, this means that banning P2P pirates from the 'Net could "eliminate 27 percent of all Internet buyers of music and video."
The survey also finds that 70 percent of all Internet users surveyed don't engage in any type of online infringement. Far more users hit legal video sites like YouTube and DailyMotion (48 percent), or go to legal streaming music sites like Deezer (43 percent), or legal download sites like iTunes (22 percent) than engage in any infringing activities.
The most popular single infringing activity is illicit Web streaming sites (20 percent), followed by P2P use (14 percent)."
Passing HADOPI has been quite the legislative process for France. The original version of the law, which offered no judicial recourse for alleged filesharers, was struck down by France's Constitutional Council in June of 2009.
However, the spirit of the law hasn't remained an exclusively French experience. The United Kingdom is considering a similar "three-strikes" provision in its upcoming Digital Economy Bill. As well, similar criticisms against the legislation's key details—only three accusations of Internet piracy would be required to suspend a user's internet connection—are sprouting up in opposition to the legislation.
Both France's current law and the UK's proposed law make no safeguards for shared networks, which has the potential to effect anyone from the errant open-Wi-Fi enthusiast to coffee shops and businesses. As written, the owner of the network is the responsible party for internal network activity. Leave your WiFi unlocked for pirates to leech off of, and you'll be liable for the results of their Web surfing.
"Responding to such claims, Lord Young, who is sponsoring the bill alongside Lord Mandelson, said that nobody could be excluded from the law - and that business and organisations should take 'proportionate and reasonable measures' to prevent illegal activity," the U.K.'s The Guardian reported.
'No one wants to see libraries or universities the subject of court action or technical measures if—I stress this—they are ever introduced,' he said, according to the paper.
'No one wants to see legitimate businesses suffer as a consequence of the actions of their customers but, equally, it cannot be right that they are totally excluded from the provisions of the bill.'
Lord Young suggested that all those potentially affected by the law should issue terms of service which placed the liability for file sharing on the user, rather than the wireless hotspot owner. He added that technical solutions could be used to block high bandwidth activity - such as downloading movies - or to screen out file sharing applications."
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