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France’s anti-piracy crusade kicks in

100,000 emails sent to ISPs seeking offender identification

France’s Culture and Internet Law, Europe’s most energetic clampdown on Internet piracy, is finally kicking into gear.

Since Oct. 2, 100,000 emails have been sent out to Internet service providers requesting that they identify potential online offenders.

The cautions are drawn up by three magistrates, heading up a Rights Protection Commission (CDP). This forms part of a state agency, the High Authority for the Diffusion of Works and Protection of Internet Rights (Hadopi).

Once ISPs identify offenders, the CDP is proceeding to email warnings to Internet users illegally downloading music, movies or TV shows.

Repeat online offenders face Internet suspension on a three-cautions-and-out basis.

For many European governments, Nicolas Sarkozy’s antipiracy charge is a litmus test. So far, it continues to inspire huge polemics plus moments of high comedy.

For rights holders, CDP is not moving fast enough. French press reports suggest Gallic copyright owners are feeding 50,000-70,000 email addresses of supposed offenders every day to the CDP.

The CDP, however, has moved against a mere 3% of this number, issuing some 2,000 emails daily as of November.

In a letter sent Tuesday to newspaper Le Monde, the three magistrates, Mireille Imbert Quaretta, Jean-Yves Monfort and Jacques Bille, defended themselves against attacks of “inertia,” claiming they “selected carefully the cases” they follow through and were not working on “autopilot.”

Sarkozy’s government hopes occasional offenders will repent, chastened by the antipiracy crusade.

Many intellectual property specialists suggest, however, that moving against individual end users is far less efficient than providing reasonably priced legal content online.

“It is simply too soon to conclude” whether Hadopi will stem piracy in France, the magistrates are quoted by newspaper Le Figaro as saying.

But a Figaro article detailing excuses made by pirates is now doing the rounds on Facebook.

One, volunteered by Imbert Quaretta, has an offender admitting he pirated a series seg: “I had to. I’d followed the whole season. I was hooked. I won’t do it again. But could I just download the last episode?”

The magistrates told Le Monde they would initiate second warnings to repeat offenders “from the start of 2011.”

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