Azureus, Shareaza and Morpheus are being sued by the music industry group Société des Producteurs de Phonogrammes en France (SPPF) under the new provisions of copyright law passed by the French Parliament last year, according to French blog Ratatium (English translation). The software creators could face criminal penalties including up to three years in prison and a €300,000 fine if the case is successfully prosecuted in French courts.
Morpheus has declined in popularity since being successfully sued already, and Shareaza is entirely non-commercial. But Azureus is leveraging the popular BitTorrent client for its Vuze network which delivers authorized downloads of video and audio. Though that fact could potentially be used in its defense as proof that the software is not exclusively for illegitimate distribution.
The new copyright provisions, abbreviated to DADVSI, is similar to the DMCA in that the intention was to update laws in order to address issues surrounding digital technology, as well as bring France in line with the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaty.
Amendments to the DADVSI, sponsored by then Minister of the Interior and now current President Nicolas Sarkozy and dubbed “The Vivendi Amendments,” added the criminal penalties of imprisonment and fines for makers of software that are meant to transmit copyrighted material illegally. Though the suit could become a forum for DADVSI detractors to challenge the constitutionality of these provisions.
So the SPPF can expect the full support of Sarkozy and his UMP party in their suit. As an indication of the change in the climate surrounding copyright in France, during a recent hunt for Sopranos video I discovered even the somewhat notorious Dailymotion appears to be getting more thorough in policing their site for unauthorized clips (and may soon be competing with YouTube for Francophonic users).