[Ars Technica] French anti-P2P law toughest in the world

France's long talked-out law to kick repeat copyright infringers off the Internet has finally come up for debate in Parliament. If passed, it would be illegal not to secure one's Internet connection, and even public WiFi hotspots will have to offer only a "white list" of approved sites.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité... HADOPI?

Critics aren't convinced. Those critics include the European Parliament, which last year twice expressed its displeasure with such schemes on the ground that the punishment was grossly disproportionate to the crime and that only judges should be allowed to order such disconnections. That has not dissuaded the Sarkozy government, which has continued to push the idea hard.

The toughest in tout le monde

It wouldn't be too much to say that the world is watching. Although Agence-France Presse said today in an article that "the new law would make France the fourth country, after the United States, Ireland and Italy, to cut off web access for illegal downloaders," the reality is that no countries currently have such a national policy in place. In the US, only "discussions" have been announced, and those are voluntary; in Ireland, a single ISP has voluntarily agreed to adopt graduated response principles; and Italy's parliament has simply agreed to follow the French model at some point in the future.

One obvious retort is that people will simply slip down the boulevard to the café for a cup of overpriced espresso, a waiter with bad case of ennui, and an afternoon of torrenting. But the Law will not be mocked so easily. When French Minister of Culture Christine Albanel answered some parliamentary questions about public WiFi networks, she said that the solution was simple: such hotspots would offer only a "white list" of approved websites.

"This return to a centralized, state-controlled network is as scary as inapplicable," said Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net, a lobby group that works for an open Internet. "Yet, this is emblematic of how a government legislates with the same ignorance and archaism as the entertainment industries that promote the 'graduated response.' They are, like this law, doomed to fail."

Consumer group UFC Que Choisir compared the entire project to France's ill-fated Maginot Line, examples of World War I thinking that were famously bypassed early in World War II by blitzkrieging German panzer units.

Instead, UFC Que Choisir calls for new thinking—in this case, a license fee paid for total access to movies and music. Such a solution is backed by some French artistic groups "et même... par le groupe Warner aux Etats-Unis" (an apparent reference to Warner's Choruss project). The implication is clear: even the music labels can see the future, and this law is straight out of the past.

True or not, however, the bill appears to have a good chance of passing into law, and the European Commission has so far (under French pressure) resisted the European Parliament's efforts to block France from implementing it.