French Anti-Piracy Agency Tracks Millions Of File-Sharers–Investigates 10

The entertainment industry has been pushing some version of a “three-strikes” system in countries around the world, where internet providers would cut off customers who repeatedly engage in online piracy. But they’ve only gotten that wish in a few countries. The “early adopter” in this case was France, where the government agency in charge of the anti-piracy efforts, known as Hadopi, has just released some data about what it’s done in its first nine months of operations.

The agency’s results were reported in Le Monde (original French link) and an English synopsis of the findings was reported by Reporters Without Borders, which has been critical of French anti-piracy efforts. Another analysis was published today by the TorrentFreak blog.

Some key data points from the first nine months of the French anti-piracy campaign:

»  Hadopi, which began operating in October, has tracked the activities of up to 18 million internet users. That massive tracking campaign–combined with a (not yet realized) threat of kicking some users off the net–was enough for Reporters Without Borders to list France as a “country under surveillance” in a recent report on the state of online freedoms. This tracking is done by a company called Trident Media Guard, which had to suspend certain operations after it was hacked in May.

I should note, the 18 million number strikes me as huge. In November 2010, according to a survey by Mediametre, only 37 million French people over the age of 11 were online. This would indicate that almost half of French internet users were using peer-to-peer downloading services.

Update: A commenter below and some other reports have noted that the report actually refers to 18 million file-sharing incidents, not 18 million people engaged in file-sharing.

»  Even though it’s aware of 18 million users engaging in incidents of illegal file-sharing, only a small fraction of those are being followed up on. Trident forwarded 1 million of the suspect IP addresses to French ISPs, which coughed up 900,000 identities of real French internet users.

»  The next step: 470,000 people getting “first warning” emails. But only 20,000 people received second warnings, which may suggest that a simple e-mail warning telling users to essentially “knock it off” is actually a pretty effective tool for combating piracy. Of the 20,000 who got second warnings, only 10 had to receive a third warning. Those ten cases are being handled by a judge. Those users risk a fine of 1,500 euros and could have their internet connection severed–but no such punishments have been meted out yet.