According to news reports published earlier today, the French anti-piracy law has claimed its first victim. The individual, described by TorrentFreak as a “craftsman from a small village in eastern France,” was convicted of allowing his WiFi connection to be used to download songs without obtaining prior permission from the copyright owners. Under the three-strikes law in France, known as Hadopi1 this could leave the man liable for up to a 1,500 euro fine. He could also have his Internet connection shut off while still being forced to continue to pay for the connection (the so-called “double pain”). The court found the man guilty, settling on a 150 euro fine. Thankfully, the court declined to suspend his Internet connection. While we were heartened that the individual's Internet connection was not suspended, EFF condemns the ongoing application of Hadopi, which along with similar copyright legislation threatens our rights to access and publish content freely online. This ruling serves as further evidence that such three-strikes laws must be repealed.

The man explained to the court that he himself did not download the music. Rather, his soon-to-be-ex-wife downloaded Rihanna songs. However, as Guillaume Champeau of Numerama explained to TorrentFreak, just because the man did not engage in any illegal downloading doesn’t stop the French law from punishing him: “By saying he knew she was downloading infringing content, but didn’t prevent her from doing so, he self-incriminated.”

The Hadopi law has been widely criticized as being extremely expensive and largely ineffective. The French culture minister has stated that the program costs some 12 million euros per year and employs 60 officials—yet this is the first actual conviction to take place since the law was enacted in 2009.

This same minister has also indicated in public statements intentions to defund the government agency responsible for administering the three-strikes law in France. As we stated last month, defunding the agency is not enough: the three-strikes bill itself should be repealed. This conviction further proves that, funding questions aside, having the three-strikes law on the books leaves the door open for innocent individuals to face criminal prosecution even when they don’t engage in illegal downloading. This law creates an affirmative authority to secure one’s Internet connection, creating an impetus for closed and/or carefully monitored networks—making a world of ubiquitous open wireless that much harder to achieve.

As we explain on our Global Censorship Chokepoints site, Hadopi is one of several three-strikes laws that would let rightsholders shut off the Internet connections of individuals accused of copyright infringement. These draconian laws, criticized by UN Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression, are spreading across the globe and have already resulted in numerous Internet disconnections in South Korea. EFF and a coalition of organizations worldwide are working to track the spread of this legislation and coordinate advocacy efforts to stop these laws through our Global Censorship Chokepoints site.

  • 1. Haute Autorité pour la diffusion des œuvres et la protection des droits sur internet

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