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French three strikes law: 470,878 warnings, no lawsuits yet

The French authority responsible for stopping illegal downloads has warned 470,878 filesharers but taken no one to court yet

France's High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi) has prosecuted no one for illegal file sharing in the nine months since it began operating under a so-called "three strikes" copyright enforcement law.

In that time, the authority has received over 18 million reports from rights holders of unauthorized file-sharing of copyright works, each one identifying the copyright work downloaded and the IP address alleged to have downloaded it, it announced Monday.

In response to those reports, the authority has sent over 1 million requests to French Internet service providers asking them to identify the subscribers associated with the IP addresses.

ISPs have been able to identify the subscribers in around 900,000 of those cases, enabling the authority to send 470,878 e-mails warning subscribers that their Internet connection has been used for illegal downloading. A second warning, this time by registered mail, was sent to 20,598 who didn't take steps to prevent the downloads from re-occurring within a six-month period.

The authority is now considering whether to initiate legal proceedings against a dozen or so subscribers who have already been reported a third time, a spokesman for the authority said Wednesday.

Such legal action could lead to a fine of up to €1,500 (US$2,100) and the suspension of Internet access for up to a month -- putting serial downloaders out of the game after three "strikes", the baseball analogy that gave such copyright enforcement laws their nickname. The French authority prefers the term "graduated response."

Illegal downloads of a different kind recently caused some embarrassment for the authority and for the agencies representing the rights holders, when P-to-P networks began distributing internal log files from Trident Media Guard (TMG), the company that monitors those same P-to-P networks for copyright breaches on behalf of the rights holders.

Last week, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty ordered TMG to bring the security of its servers into compliance with French data protection laws within three months. It also warned the copyright collecting societies that police copyrights on behalf of the rights holders that they were legally responsible for any contractor working on their behalf, and gave them three months to ensure that their contractors complied with data protection laws.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.


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