France’s digital rights authority HADOPI is continuing with its “three strikes and you’re out” approach to illegal downloading, giving a progress report at a news conference yesterday, although several international bodies have just recognized Internet access as a fundamental right and France’s National Commission for Information Technology and Freedoms (CNIL) has accused HADOPI of failing to protect personal data.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the French authorities not to engage in a statistics and public relations war and instead to draw the appropriate conclusions by repealing the HADOPI law.
Aside from its practical omissions and shortcomings, the HADOPI law directly violates the principles of the defence of free expression by making it possible to disconnect people from the Internet. Its adoption was one of Reporters Without Borders’ reasons for adding France to the list of “countries under surveillance” in its latest “Enemies of the Internet” report.
HADOPI announced at yesterday’s news conference that digital rights holders have reported 18 million instances of alleged illegal downloading since the law took effect (out of a total of 22 million Internet connections in France). In response, HADOPI has so far sent a total of 470,000 initial warning letters, and 20,598 second warnings.
The authority is to question 10 Internet subscribers who have crossed the “three warnings” threshold, and it could transfer their case to prosecutors. If convicted, they could be fined up to 1,500 euros and their Internet access could be suspended.
In a report last month, United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of expression Franck Larue said: “cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, [is] disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Larue’s report cited France’s “gradual response” and the United Kingdom’s 2010 Digital Economy Act as examples of measures that violate the covenant in this way.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s media freedom representative, Dunja Mijatovic, has also just identified the Internet as a fundamental right, saying that “everyone has the right to participate in the information society” and that “states have the duty to guarantee Internet access for their citizens.”
The obligation of governments to promote universal Internet access was also stressed in a joint statement issued on 1 June by representatives of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Organization of American States and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
On 16 June, the CNIL issued a warning to Trident Media Guard (TMG), the company that collects the IP addresses of alleged violators for HADOPI, accusing the company of “inadequate security measures” as regards the protection of personal data.