My twitter erupted with activity yesterday as news spread that the French lower house had at long last passed the much-maligned Hadopi bill, the hugely controversial legislation that would ban people from using the internet if they are caught repeatedly downloading files illegally.
This was the third attempt to pass the measure, but the third time was the charm and since it’s already passed the French senate, Sarkozy’s piracy-busting measure will now become law. It will be the toughest anti-internet piracy legislation in the world. The slow journey of this legislation has been closely watched by other European countries and now that the precedent has been set, they will now likely enact their own similar laws.
The bill, named after the new anti-piracy government agency it will create, would permit authorities to impose a variety of penalties on people caught downloading illegally including cutting off their internet connection for a year, imposing fines of hundreds of thousands of euros, and even jailing them for two years.
The bill has had plenty of vocal opponents, including the European Parliament. Internet freedom advocates have been raising alarm about the bill calling it “draconian” and saying Sarkozy is beding over backward for the music and film industries. They’ve also been quick to point out that his wife Carla Bruni is a recording artist who would benefit from the law. The European Parliament has in the past taken strong stances against cutting off the internet of illegal downloaders, saying that the internet is now a basic right like water or electricity. But there's no EU law preventing France from enacting this legislation, and the European Parliament can't make law, so it looks like it's full steam ahead with this and the UK and Germany may soon follow. Sweden has already enacted a similiar law to this and reportedly seen a drop in internet piracy since.
Significantly, this law will enact the penalties on the account holder rather than the user, meaning that if someone else is using your wireless signal to download illegally, you could go to jail. So part of the law requires that people with wifi transmitters block non-authorised users from using their internet. Many are seeing this provision as putting a huge obstacle toward the the possibility of city-wide wi-fi access some day.