This post was also written by Andrew Boortz.
Over the last several months, France’s Parliament has been focusing on the issue of Internet piracy. In May, both houses of the French parliament passed the so-called “three strikes” law which would have given an independent body the ability to disconnect file-sharers from their ISPs. In June, the law was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Council because, under French law, the power to force such disconnection could only come through issuance of a court order. In response, French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave the first Presidential speech to the French Parliament in 150 years and passionately defended regulation of Internet piracy.
After President Sarkozy’s speech, the French Senate drafted and passed a modified version of the “three strikes” law which would allow alleged infringers to present their case to a French court, prior to losing their Internet connection. Judges in these hearings would have the power to: (1) order disconnection of the alleged infringer’s Internet access; (2) fine the alleged infringer up to €300,000; and/or (3) sentence the alleged infringer to a two-year prison term. Just yesterday (September 15th), the French National Assembly gave preliminary approval to the measure by a vote of 285-225 and now, a joint committee will unify the Senate and Assembly versions and present a final bill to both houses for a vote on September 22nd.
In looking back over the piracy-related events of this year, it may well turn out that 2009 will be remembered as a watershed year in the struggle between Internet pirates and rights holders. With the Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum verdicts in the States, the pseudo-shuttering of the Pirate Bay in Sweden, the implementation of a self-imposed, self-regulatory “three strikes” policy by Ireland’s largest ISP (created under threat of massive litigation) and now France’s revised and revitalized new “three strikes” law, the global community is indeed tilting towards greater sanctions and regulation of Internet piracy.
This raises questions for technology innovators. For example, Facebook, which according to a CNN report out today has a social network population nearly as large as the population of the United States, will soon launch a voice chat feature. Most likely, the feature could be used to stream media across the globe as well as the nation? Would Facebook be liable for creation and distribution of such a feature, which is similar to that which created liability for the Pirate Bay creators for their torrent-tracking website?
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