French minister: 3 strikes anti-piracy rule a 'waste of money'

Culture boss says controversial copyright protection regime isn't working

The future of France's controversial "three strikes" copyright anti-infringement rule appears to have been called into question after the country's new culture minister branded the regime "expensive" and said that it had "not fulfilled its mission".

In an interview with French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Aurélie Filippetti said that she "did not know" what would become of Hadopi, the government agency set up to administer the law of the same name.

"I do not know what will become of the institution, but one thing is clear: Hadopi has not fulfilled its mission of developing legal downloads," she told the magazine, according to an automated translation. "In financial terms, €12 million euros a year and 60 officers is expensive just to send a million emails."

Filippetti said that she intended to "greatly reduce" the budget for Hadopi, and would announce further details in September. "I prefer to cut funding for things whose utility is not proven," she said, according to the translation.

Under the Hadopi law, which was introduced in 2009, alleged copyright infringers are identified by their internet service providers (ISPs) and will be reported to a judge once they have received three warnings. Judges can impose a fine of up to €1,500 on offenders, or order that they be disconnected from the internet for up to one year.

The French Government recently appointed Pierre Lescure, former chief executive of cable channel Canal+, to consider the challenges posed to French culture by the expansion of digital media. Filippetti said that the committee led by Lescure would consider the future of Hadopi as part of its remit, including the power to disconnect users. "The suspension of internet access seems a disproportionate sanction against the goal," she said.

The review will, Fileppetti said, consider the "changing practices in the use of digital cultural content" and propose new legal requirements for copyrighted content. It will look at France's existing 'cultural exception' laws, which protect the rights of content creators as part of broader framework aimed at treating 'culture' differently from other types of commercial product.

According to Hadopi's July newsletter (9-page/2.9MB PDF), the agency has to date sent one million warning emails to potentially infringing users under the first stage of the regime. 99,000 'strike two' follow-up letters have been sent, while 314 cases have been referred to the courts for possible prosecution. To date, nobody has actually been disconnected under the law.

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