Hadopi and Internet Intermediaries: No to a French ACTA!

Paris, 26 February 2013 – Hadopi, the French "three strikes" administration, released yesterday a report [fr] on the fight against streaming and direct download sites. It advocates for the establishment of measures bearing a close resemblance to those of ACTA and the US SOPA bill, both shelved following a strong citizen mobilization for the defense of fundamental freedoms. Currently confined to the fight against file sharing between individuals, Hadopi now wants to extend its control to Internet intermediaries such as hosting services, search engines, Internet service providers or online payment services. Doing so, could only lead them to actively monitor content shared on the Net, with unavoidable collateral damage to freedom of expression, the protection of privacy and the right to a fair trial.

European law clearly states that hosting services cannot be forced to engage in general surveillance of content1. In its report, Hadopi suggests circumventing this limitation by encouraging Internet access and service providers to implement pro-active censorship measures as part of commercial agreements signed with industrial actors. Platforms that refuse to accept these new requirements could face domain name confiscation or censorship by public authorities. The report also proposes actions against search engines to delist given websites or to use censorship systems to block access to these. These schemes mirror the abusive provisions denounced in ACTA and SOPA: increasing Internet Intermediaries' liability, bypassing the judicial authority and moving towards contractual forms of online communication control, leading in turn to private censorship of the Internet.

La Quadrature du Net restates that the best way to fight against for-profit copyright infringement is to legalize non-market sharing between individuals within a clearly defined scope, in order to promote decentralized sharing (peer-to-peer) at the expense of (for-profit) centralized streaming or direct download platforms. To keep advocating for a blind war on sharing, as the Hadopi does, with no distinction between these different practices, will inevitably lead to a repressive spiral detrimental to fundamental freedoms. This report is all the more worrying that it reflects the approach of the working group lead by Pierre Lescure (former CEO of Canal +, major TV station owned by Universal) currently advising the French government on the future of Hadopi. This working group seems to be moving towards means to fight for-profit copyright infringement inspired by ACTA or the American SOPA bill, that is to say, directly inspired by the entertainment industry.

“The French government would be foolish to ignore the previous rejection of ACTA and SOPA. Citizens have shown that they are capable of mobilizing when an unfair, dangerous, and disproportionate approach to copyright threatens their freedoms. The same causes produce the same effects: those who sow ACTA shall reap the citizen whirlwind!” declared Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

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