As of April 2nd, the French Parliament has passed a new internet anti-piracy law proposal with the lowest rate of enthusiasm possible: only 15 members of Parliament showed up for the debate and the vote (of the 377 representatives). This anti-piracy proposal, named Hadopi, not only gets off to a bad start, but it is all round flawed.
What does it say?
The idea is to gradually eradicated illegal music and movie exchange over the internet, to protect copyrighted material. A new administration is to be created, named Hadopi, which will send out emails to pirates and, if they do not stop, have their home internet connection suspended for 4 to 12 months.
Banning someone from access to the internet, assuming that that is still legally possible in Europe today (an EU statement is still pending), would imply they can no longer shop online (including food, they could be handicapped), receive emails, pay taxes and all the other activities people do online. But of course, that is if you suppose that having internet at home is the only way to be online.
What is wrong with this?
Besides effectively turning half (the customary estimate) of the French population online into “criminals”, of sorts, the state would have to set up a database of email addresses of everyone which can be linked to physical addresses with internet connections and varying IP’s. The IP address (your online identity number) would have to be very reliable indeed if behaviour related to it can provoke punishment. The internet providers can not guarantee that. And the email addresses? Getting these addresses is going to be a major problem (my internet provider does not have mine, for instance), as is keeping them up to date. As anyone who has held a mailing list knows, email addresses, like mobile phone numbers, change all the time. Who is to do this and at what cost?
Even if Hadopi received a huge budget to be able to intimidate people into the right behaviour, how can an administration issue punishments which today carry a penalty of 300 k€ and up to a 3 year prison sentence by a court of law? Constitutionally, the courts are the only ones allowed to judge. Would we in future be punished without trial by a Hadopi administration?
There are also technical problems related to the tracking down of pirates: internet providers are not (currently) capable of filtering through the whole network to pick out the pirates (and who is going to pay for this?) And on the other side of the net, hiding your IP from your internet provider can not be too great a challenge for someone who wants to download that rare bootleg.
And even if you are condemned, there is no mention of using the internet elsewhere (cafe, the free city network) or through other means (iPhone, Blackberry), so is there still a sense? And if you ban someone, you automatically ban their entire household which uses that connection – is it right for the partner or housemate to suffer for a “mistake” made by the other?
The state would have to set up a blacklist to avoid that a person banned from one provider will just turn to the next. How many people will have access to this list for it to be operational? Does this not classify as public shaming, which is not a valid punishment in France? And who is going to follow up on this to see that it is enforced?
Is this really going to happen?
It would be a relatively safe bet to suppose this law is not going anywhere for the time being.
But … notice the tendency of outsourcing of police/ judiciary: the internet providers are obliged by this law to rat out their customers to the authorities. This constitutes the spreading out of responsibility of a morally sound society. In other words, the ills of society rest on your shoulders rather than on the organizations set up by our society and bound by the rule of law to uphold justice. It is like society as a pyramidal structure of prison guards where we are all inmates and guards keeping each other in check. This is not the right direction to go, spreading guilt and shame. The government needs to get its act together to actually read and discuss the law proposals on their desks. A little more presence and effort of our deputies in Parliament is really not to much too ask. It is not even a school holiday at the moment!
Hebdo Cinema had fun asking the politicians “What is worse, BitTorrent or P2P?” to which, they got blank stares. Let it be no wonder this law is so badly constructed and that nobody wanted to discuss it in Parliament.