Telcos protest price of government crackdown

MADRID — France’s telcos are protesting the huge price of the Gallic government’s anti-piracy crackdown.

A draft law that goes before France’s lower house, the National Assembly, next Wednesday requires local Internet service providers to contact online pirates by email and suspend repeat offenders’ Internet connection.

That oversight will cost FT-Orange, France’s biggest telco, around e13 million ($16.6 million) a year, Orange announced Thursday.

Enforcement by the four telcos — Orange, SFR, Free and Numerique — is expected to cost north of $40 million.

A new anti-piracy High Authority, which fields complaints from collection rights societies and copyright owners, has a $23.2 million 2009 budget.

The high costs of enforcement are unlikely to deter Gaul’s anti-piracy crusade. The Senate passed the bill by a large majority last October.

The culture and internet law will come into effect before the summer, Christine Albanel, France’s Culture and Communications Minister, said earlier this month.

Whether it will be effective is another matter.

According to a recent opt-in survey published last week by U.K. ISP Tiscali, more than 75% of respondents recognized that freeloading was illegal, but only 6% feared a fine.

“The fact people recognize unauthorized downloading as piracy is a major step forward. But they appear to regard it as very low-level infringement,” said Alice Enders, at London-based consultancy Enders Analysis.

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