French court levies first fine under three-strikes law on illegal downloads

A man was fined €150 on Thursday for failing to secure his Internet connection

A French court fined a man ¬150 (US$193) on Thursday for failing to secure his Internet connection, according to a spokesman for the French High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi).

Hadopi's Commission for Rights Protection, the body that investigates reports of copyright infringement, has passed just 14 case files to the courts for prosecution under the country's controversial three strikes law since it began its work in October 2010. This is the first of the cases to reach trial.

The law makes it illegal to download copyright content such as music, video, or games without the copyright holder's permission. It also makes it illegal for Internet subscribers to allow other people to do so over their Internet connection, even if they only allow them to do so inadvertently.

The Belfort Police Tribunal, which tries minor offenses, found the man guilty of negligence for failing in his obligation to secure access to his Internet connection, the spokesman for Hadopi said.

During the hearing, the man said it was his wife that had downloaded the files, not him. He admitted failing to secure his Internet access.

Local newspapers reported that his wife had signed a statement admitting to downloading two tracks by the artist Rihanna, although these were not the only downloads the man was accused of allowing.

Last week Mireille Imbert-Quaretta, president of the Commission for Rights Protection, said Hadopi had sent out 1,153,460 warning emails to Internet subscribers by June 30. When the Commission receives complaints of copyright infringement from rights holders, it sends emails warning the Internet subscribers concerned that their connections are involved in illegal downloads. Not all recipients of the emails heeded the warnings, prompting rights holders to make further complaints about 102,854 of them, prompting the Commission to send second warnings by registered letter to the subscribers.

Just 340 of those have been the subject of continued complaints by rights holders, the third strike that may -- if they are the subject of further complaints during the year following their final warning -- eventually land them in court.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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