If French Internet users have been caught unlawfully sharing and/or downloading copyrighted works on the internet, they will no longer be subject to disconnection / suspension of their Internet access. On July 9, 2013 a French Decree removed this penalty. As a reminder, the so-called French “HADOPI” Law, adopted in 2009, provided for a “three strikes”/graduated response system under which copyright infringers received a series of maximum 3 warning messages and/or letter? leading to a fine of up to EUR 1,500 and the suspension of their Internet access. See, e.g., G. Tulquois Three Strikes and Out: French Copyright Reform: Towards a Reconciliation of Creation and the Internet?, Copyright World, July-August 2008 and A Shift Away From Three Strikes: French and British strategies to stamp out internet file sharing, Copyright World, July-August 2009.
Even though the disconnection of the Internet access will no longer be an option for the French authorities, it should be noted that French Courts may still order Internet suspension as an additional penalty for those guilty of copyright infringement, pursuant to Article L. 335-7 of the French Intellectual Property Code.
As a consequence, the three strikes/graduated response system is maintained but the maximum sanction for piracy is now a fine of up to EUR 1,500, which has, so far, never been ordered by a Court. According to the “Lescure” report published earlier this year, only one single offender has been sanctioned by Internet access suspension for two weeks and a fine of EUR 600 was ordered against him. However, the “Lescure” report also stated that the three strikes / graduated response system had a positive effect on unlawful downloading, as 95% of the Internet users who received a first warning email/letter ceased downloading copyrighted works illegally.
The French Government has also announced its intent to shut down the HADOPI French authority (“Haute Autorité pour la diffusion des oeuvres et la protection des droits sur Internet”) which was in charge of the implementation of the HADOPI Law and to transfer all of its authority to the French Audiovisual Authority “CSA” (“Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel”).
The French Government also suggested to implement a new fine system pursuant to which an automatic fine of EUR 60 would be applied to Internet users who repeatedly ignore the warnings.
Finally, the Government is planning to propose a new law by the end of 2013 aiming at creating a new tax on smartphones and harmonizing Value Added Tax on tangible and intangible cultural products.
To be continued…