France should soften Internet 'three strikes' law, says gov't report

French copyright enforcement activities should focus on commercial pirates, not file-sharers, says a new report

France should stop cutting off the Internet access of those accused of illicit file sharing, and close down the agency that polices online copyright breaches, according to a government-commissioned report.

The report also recommended imposing a copyright levy on smartphones, tablets and other connected devices to remunerate rights holders; forcing publishers to allow libraries to loan out e-books, and encouraging copyright collection societies to allow remixing of audiovisual works on community sites, as long as the remixers do not profit.

Last August, Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti commissioned Pierre Lescure, a TV presenter and former entertainment industry executive, to advise on policies to support the French publishing, film and music industries in a world increasingly dominated by digital technologies and services.

A similar report commissioned by the previous government resulted in the creation of the French High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi), responsible for policing the country's "three strikes" file-sharing policy in which those accused of sharing copyright works face fines of up to €1,500 (US$1,947) and suspension of their Internet access.

That policy hasn't been particularly effective, however: While illicit file sharing has dropped, legal paid services have not benefited as was hoped, and the use of alternative unauthorized services such as streaming has increased, Lescure wrote in his report, published Monday. He recommended dropping the threat of Internet access suspension, limiting the fine to €60, and closing Hadopi, transferring some of its responsibilities to another agency.

Lescure proposed focusing antipiracy activities on commercial pirates, enlisting search engines and advertising networks to help "follow the money" back to those responsible for copyright infringement on a massive scale. However, he advised against forcing ISPs to block access to particular sites, or ordering registrars to redirect domain names, because of the risk of collateral damage to unrelated sites and services.

Lescure's recommendations have no legal force, but will be used to inspire and inform government policy.

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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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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