French Court Kills Part of Controversial Copyright Law

A French court struck down yesterday part of a recently passed anti-piracy law that would have shut off Internet access to those accused of repeated copyright infringement. The Constitutional Council said, in effect, that given the importance of the Internet, a court approval was needed before denying someone web access.

The court’s decision is a blow to copyright holders, who loved the law and saw its strict measures as a model for cracking down on file sharing. The three strikes law, which passed last month, would have created a new government agency called HADOPI (the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet) that would issue notices (at a copyright holder’s behest) to illegal file sharers. Upon receipt of a third notice, the accused would have been disconnected from Internet access for anywhere from two months to a year and blacklisted from signing up with another ISP. The law would also allow ISPs to be ordered to block certain sites, such as The Pirate Bay.

But the Council put the kibosh on that plan. The New York Times writes:

The council said the proposal was contrary to French constitutional principles, like the presumption of innocence and freedom of speech. The latter right “implies today, considering the development of the Internet, and its importance for the participation in democratic life and the expression of ideas and opinions, the online public’s freedom to access these communication services.”

France’s culture minister said that, based on the court’s decision, the law could be taken back to the French Prime Minister for re-tooling.