François Hollande, the French socialist candidate expected to best President Nicholas Sarkozy following the national runoff election held Sunday, told national media recently that he would replace the country's harsh Internet restrictions with a wholly different scheme that strengthens the relationship between artists and their fans.


The French Internet law, strongly supported by Sarkozy, bans users from going online for one year after three individual violations of copyright law. U.S. industry played a key role in lobbying for the "Creation and Internet law," whereas French socialists played a key role in opposing it.

The law created an Internet regulator called the "High Authority of Diffusion of the Art Works and Protection of the Rights on the Internet" (HADOPI), with the aim of detecting up to 150,000 incidents of copyright infringement per day and intercepting individual users with messages about the consequences of piracy, up to and including a year of disconnection for a third offense.

And that's precisely what Hollande said he wants to end.

Speaking to French film website AlloCiné last month, Hollande said that HADOPI sows "injustice" by disconnecting people from the Internet. "Further, I don't consider piracy to be a minor problem," he reportedly said. "That's why I'm proposing to replace HADOPI by voting on a law based on Act 2 of the Cultural Exception which will guarantee financing of French cinema and protection of authors' rights. I want to break with destructive simplism that has not solved anything and which has uselessly contributed to separating artists from their audience. There is no simple solution, but a new model to be invented."

While it's not exactly clear what he's proposing to replace HADOPI with, he's also expected to pull France out of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which essentially exports U.S. copyright law to other nations. Hollande has also promised to bring opposition to ACTA up on the European stage, where other member nations have been facing strong backlash from their residents over the controversial proposals.

Hollande's opposition isn't surprising, but it's also not exactly clear what he's proposing. French socialists in 2009 were a key stumbling block to the law after they hid in a broom closet near the entrance to parliament to trigger a vote with them in absentia, only to emerge at the last moment to cast a bloc of 'No' ballots that effectively killed the bill. It was passed on a second attempt months later.

It was not clear what role the U.S. played in lobbying French lawmakers for the creation of HADOPI and the country's harsh Internet restrictions until anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables which revealed that the U.S. movie, music and software lobbies were heavily involved.

HADOPI has since claimed that the law has been effective: A report earlier this month by the French Internet regulator claimed that illegal downloading has plunged and legal media streaming services have seen subscription numbers soar. The French film and music industries, however, have still seen a net loss in recent years.

A similar scheme called the "graduated response" plan, which does not include mandatory disconnections, will be launched by U.S. Internet service providers later this summer.

Photo: AFP

(H/T: Ars Technica)