France increases its anti-piracy efforts as similar measures roll out in U.S.

If you think the newly instituted six-strikes agreement between entertainment companies and major U.S. Internet service providers is bad news, be glad you don’t live in France.

Unlike U.S. anti-piracy measures, which are relatively toothless, Internet users in France face steep fines and up to a month of suspended Internet service for copyright infringement. And Hadopi, the French governmental agency charged with administrating that country’s copyright laws bearing the same name, shows no signs of slowing down; in fact its actions are only increasing.

Hadopi uses a three-strikes model similar to the newly instituted six strikes format in the U.S., but France’s version is more condensed and extreme.

The first time someone, let’s call him Jacques, is caught trading in copyrighted works via a peer-to-peer connection, he is sent an e-mail warning. Six months later, if someone is still trading in copyrighted works over Jacques’ Internet connection, he gets another warning in the form of a certified letter. Finally, if a year later there are still instances of piracy from Jacques’ IP address, he then gets another certified letter. Jacques may also have to appear before a judge where he could be fined as well as lose his Internet access for up to a month.

How effective?

The French agency recently said it planned to increase its actions in 2013 to combat piracy, and so far Hadopi is living up to its claim. Hadopi sent just over 41,396 first-strike warnings in January 2012, but that number almost doubled in January of this year to 82,000 first strikes, according to Torrent Freak. February was a similar story with another 80,000 first strikes sent compared to 51,621 in 2012.

Torrent Freak also compared second- and third-strike measures in January and February of 2013 with those in the same months in 2012. The site argued that the increase in first strikes hasn’t affected the number of second- and third-strike warnings. Presumably, if Hadopi was effective at curbing piracy, the numbers of second and third strikes would decrease. But in fact, during January and February 2013, the number of second- and third-strike letters stayed pretty much the same, Torrent Freak said.

The problem with that reasoning, however, is that second and third strikes are sent out at six- and then 12-month intervals following the first warning. So to truly know how effective the January and February first strike letters were, we’d have to wait until at least July to see how many second-offense letters were sent out to the same 82,000 alleged pirates from January.

The Hadopi law claimed last Septemberwhat some critics are calling its first victimafter a man was fined about $200 for not securing his Internet connection, which his wife used to download two Rihanna songs.

Whether or not Hadopi’s efforts are proving effective at curbing piracy, the French agency may expand its three-strikes copyright policing beyond peer-to-peer networks.

Hadopi recently issued a report about how the three strikes plan could also be used to police copyrighted content on sites that offer pirated direct downloads and online streaming of popular TV shows and movies. These new measures, however, would focus on site operators, not users. The U.S. typically deals with sites accused of copyright infringement by seizing domains and shutting web sites down.

Anti-piracy efforts on the rise

Other anti-piracy efforts have been on the rise in recent months in addition to Hadopi’s plan to increase its efforts.

The entertainment industry and five major American ISPs including Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon in late February instituted the aforementioned six-strikes plan, the Copyright Alert System.

Also, several nations, including the U.S., are currently negotiating a trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that may threaten copyright fair use provisions for online use, according to digital rights advocacy group The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Finally, the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay in recent weeks has had problems maintaining a single host to connect the site to the public Internet. The site’s problems culminated in a claim Monday, which later turned out to be a hoax, that the site was being hosted in North Korea.

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