France’s new president poised to strike out 3-strikes law

Content owners have been hoping that France’s controversial HADOPI scheme for disconnecting file-sharers might provide a model for the rest of the world. Now, the fate of the plan is in confusion (like much else in France) after last week’s election that brought Socialist Francois Hollande to power.

The French law with the funny acronym went into effect last year. It resulted in the creation of a large bureaucracy that has sent a reported ¬†755,015¬†email warnings to those who take copyrighted content without permission. The warnings are supposed to be the first strike in a series of measures that culminate in citizens losing their internet connection — a prospect that has created great alarm but has not actually come to pass.

France’s former government claimed HADOPI reduced piracy by up to 66 percent but others questioned the statistics.

The Socialist party has long promised to revoke the measure altogether and the French press, where HADOPI has been a big deal, has already been speculating about when Hollande will actually kill the law.

In a report on digital issues confronting Hollande, French news magazine L’Express says HADOPI is the most important one and that the new president will implement a revised version of the law by 2013. In the meantime, the report suggests, the existing law’s enforcement measures will soon be suspended.

But at the same time, Hollande is beholden to the country’s powerful cultural interests. He has vowed to fight illegal distribution platforms that “distribute cultural content without participating in their financing.”

Overall, this suggests that the new French government will cease enforcement campaigns against individuals and instead target file-sharing websites as part of a nationalistic cultural campaign. The details — like much of Hollande’s plans for fixing France — have yet to be sketched out.

Meanwhile, the European Commissioner for a digital agenda has expressed discomfort with HADOPI-style punitive measures, and appears focused instead on creating more seamless licensing frameworks for content.

The United States, for now, is poised to go in a different direction with a “six-strike” regime set to go into effect this summer. The scheme is the result of a new collaboration between studios and ISP’s, and would result in a series of warnings and enforcement measures.

At the same time, copyright owners from publishers to porn studios have become more aggressive in using the courts to sue dozens of people at once through “John Doe” lawsuits in which a case goes forward and names are filled in later. Content owners have also been working with federal authorities to seize “rogue” websites.