Top French court eliminates ‘three strikes and you're out’ clause from anti-piracy law


It looks like, in France, men still are born and remain free and equal in rights. That anti-piracy law that we’ve been tracking, known in France as the Hadopi law, is now, for all intents and purposes, pretty much null and void, thanks to the intervention of a court there. Well, the court there, the Constitutional Council. It is the view of the court that “free access to public communication services online” is in line with the rights laid down in the French Constitution. Any effort to subvert that right—say, three strikes and you’re out, and disconnected from the Internet for a year—necessarily conflicts with the Constitution.

There’s more. Not only did the court take issue with the whole kick-you-off-the-Internet part, it also pointed out that, wait a minute, since when can the executive convict people? (You’ll recall that the French Parliament initially wanted nothing to do with the law; Sarkozy is said to have hammered it through by will alone.) Because, in effect, that’s what it would have been doing. It set up an “independent” agency to track people online (so as to count how many strikes that have), and, if found “guilty,” bam! Then there’s the whole matter of invasion of privacy: since when is it the government’s job to follow your trail of bread crumbs online? At the behest of “artists” (read: the suit-wearing money men in the entertainment industry), no less!

Now, the Hadopi law will still go into effect, just without the stricken provisions (kicking people off the Internet, tracking their whereabouts, etc.) How exactly you can enforce the law now without the ability to keep track of people, to keep track of how many “strikes” they have, I have no idea.

There’s also more pragmatic forces at work here. I recall seeing several comments, during my run-in with Best Buy, deriding the idea of taking Best Buy to court. (Note: I have just let the matter die, no lawsuit or demanding an apology or whatever. Just move on.) “Why would you want to clog the courts up with this nonsense?” etc. Can you even imagine how busy the courts would be if that independent agency dragged every teenager who downloaded an album before a judge? (Never mind that the Hadopi law didn’t provide for people to fight the accusations!) It would surely be madness.

Only now has this three-strikes law piqued my interest. I look forward to the fallout.