Offenders to lose Internet access

France’s pioneering “three strikes and you’re out” antipiracy law, which could knock persistent offenders off the Internet for up to a year, will hit the statute books early next year.

Culture and communication minister Christine Albanel said Wednesday that the draft law will not pass until the fall due to a bottleneck of bills before parliament’s summer recess.

The legislation also will create a body called the High Authority for the Diffusion of Works and Protection of Internet Rights.

Under the new law, Gallic copyright owners or rights collection societies representing them will monitor P2P sites and feed Internet addresses to the new body.

This org will notify repeat unauthorized downloaders of movies and music, first by email and then by letter. As well as barring offenders from the Internet, it will also prevent them from signing up with another ISP.

The law does not envisage ISPs filtering clients’ content, Albanel said. The new antipiracy authority will have a e15 million ($23.2 million) budget in 2009 to send emails at the rate of “several thousand a week,” Albanel said.

Albanel hopes the law will cut piracy by “70%-80%.” That may be optimistic, say specialists.

“The problem has always been that legal action against a person on a site has been considered like Godzilla against Bambi, very disproportionate. The idea of having a soft-enforcement mechanism is more appealing,” said Alice Enders, a media analyst at Enders Analysis.

“The measure will not halt physical piracy and copying works after they’ve been downloaded legally. Copying CDs for friends, for example. That’s become accepted social practice,” she added.

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