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New Details Emerge About French “Three Strikes” Online Antipiracy Regime

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French authorities have started to send out warning letters to individuals suspected of copyright infringement online, and a whole cottage industry of lawyers and technologists has mushroomed up to both give tips on evading the law enforcers and to aid recipients of the notices, according to a Wednesday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The journal as well as Agence France Presse have reported on how advice is being dispensed online to help would-be pirates to avoid detection by the nation’s online copyright enforcement body the Hadopi.

AFP notes one posting online, for example that is entitled “13 Ways to Illegally Download that Hadopi Hasn’t Noticed.”

The post suggests using encrypted connections, server proxies and downloading at public WiFi access points to avoid detection.

The AFP story notes that Tim Berners-Lee has recently condemned the anti-piracy approach adopted by the French.

“If a French family can be forcibly disconnected from the internet by law for a year because one of their children downloaded something that some company asserts that they should not have downloaded, without trial — I think that’s a kind of inappropriate punishment,” AFP quoted Berners-Lee as saying.

“I’d like to go on using the Internet. If it gets cut off, or for some reason things go wrong, in some cases, for me, my social life would disintegrate; for other people it may be access to medical information.”

The Journal article notes that copyright holders are paying a monitoring company two million Euros a year to find online pirates on the file-sharing networks and to report the internet protocol addresses to HADOPI so that the authorities can send out the notices to the people associated with the addresses that they’ve been put on notice.

The article also cites research published by France’s music trade association SNEP that claims that after the first warning, 70 percent of people “are likely to stop downloading illegally.”

It isn’t clear how SNEP came up with this number as this is a relatively new enforcement regime, and the chief of SNEP was recently quoted as saying that it would take some time to see whether the regime is effective.

France enacted a controversial new law in October 2009 that created a new copyright enforcement regime and a new legal authority called HADOPI to enforce the law.

Under the law, individuals suspected of copyright infringement, who are listed as the contact for the internet protocol addresses through their internet service provider, are sent e-mails and warning letters about the infringement activity by HADOPI. If the activity continues, those internet connections are terminated for anytime between two months and a year.

Separately, the Journal article notes that the European Commission approved a French government project to subsidize legal music downloads, “in which the government will cover half the cost of prepaid cards worth up to 50 Euros that will enable people to buy music online.”

Meanwhile, Korean copyleft activist Heesob Nam has some interesting details about how the three-strikes rule is working out in South Korea.

According to Nam, internet service providers have disconnected 31 individuals during the second half of 2010. All of those users were disconnected for less than a month.

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss the Intellectual Property Breakfast Club Event on Tuesday, November 9th, “Approaches by Internet Service Providers Around the World to Copyright Infringement,” for FREE at Clyde’s of Gallery Place in Washington from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Register at http://ipbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

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