Wednesday, 10 June 2009

French approach to illegal downloads unconstitutional

Le Monde, which I read too infrequently in a vain effort to improve my French, reports that the Conseil constitutionel today ruled that the loi Hadopi, which provides for a graduated response to downloading, is unconstitutional.  Well, who knows what nuances I might be missing: if, as is probably the case, your French is better than mine, take a look at the story.

The members of the Conseil - les Sages, as I was delighted to see they are called - stated that "the Internet is a component of freedom of expression and of consumerism" (or perhaps "commerce" would fit better - consommation in the original) and that "in French law the presumption of innocence prevails".  It is for the justice system to impose penalties (I'm going to stop holding my translation out in quotes) when an illegal download takes place, and the role of the Haute Autorité (Hadopi) is to tell the downloader that he has been detected, but not to penalise him.

Socialist deputies had referred the matter to the Conseil on 19 May, following the adoption of the proposed legislation on 13 May providing for suspension of offenders' Internet access after two warnings.  (What's French for "two strikes and you're out"?)  The penalty would be pronounced by the new Haute Autorité pour la diffusion des œuvres et la protection des droits sur Internet.  The Conseil has taken the same approach as the European Parliament, which took the view that the right to connect to the Internet is a fundamental one in voting down a similar proposal.

Or something like that.  Any corrections would be appreciated!

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