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French copyright police warn government over cutbacks

When France elected new President Francois Hollande in May, a lot of local technologists wondered one thing: what would he do about Hadopi, the controversial “three strikes” copyright regime brought in by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy?

Hollande had hinted during his campaign that he would consider changing or reforming Hadopi so that it was less repressive and more cooperative, winning him some fans but straining relationships with some protective industries. But, once he took power, he started a review of the organization — and in August the hint came that it would be scaling back funding for the policing of the web.

Now, however, it seems that Hadopi is fighting back — hard.

In a progress report on Wednesday, Mireille Imbert-Quarratta, who chairs the Committee on Protection of Rights (the group at the center of Hadopi), warned the government that it could not undercut funding for the agency without fundamentally undermining French law.

“Hadopi will take part in an effort to reduce its costs, as with all governments,” she said. “But we are an independent authority, and the Ministry cannot get rid of Hadopi or deprive it of funds, because it has been created by law. This would undermine the separation of powers.”

In fact, her argument went even further, drawing a comparison between an attempt by the French government in 1981 to try and effectively get rid of the death penalty by starving the execution service of money. That loophole failed, she pointed out, although it’s worth remembering that France did enact a law that got rid of the death penalty soon afterwards. But the warning was clear: try to kill off Hadopi by the back door, and you won’t find it easy.

So what next?

Campaigners have long opposed Hadopi, which they say can act as judge and jury over claims of copyright infringement, using unreliable evidence such as IP addresses, and putting the burden of proof onto the accused rather than on the state.

The government’s main practical arguments about Hadopi, meanwhile, are that it is expensive and largely ineffective. While the organization’s own internal reports suggest that 95 percent of the hundreds of thousands of citizens it has contacted have subsequently stopped filesharing, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it has not been responsible for shifiting P2P use. And, two years after it was implemented, the first cases are only now going to court — potentially making it an extremely expensive deterrent.

It looks like the first real battle may come with those cases: the way the courts go could hand one side or the other a lot of political capital.

Police photograph courtesy Shutterstock user Jbor

One Response to “French copyright police warn government over cutbacks”

  1. Gerard Dupin

    That’s the only to do. This Hadopi is very experience, and highly inefficient because it doesn’t work. Sarkozy never understood internet (among a few other things..)