French Constitutional Court declares "three strikes" law unconstitutional

By: Rebekah Heacock on 10 June 2009

Today the French Constitutional Council declared France's "three strikes" law unconstitutional. The Council ruled that HADOPI, the agency in charge of administering the law, has the authority to warn Internet users who are caught violating the law, but not to punish them.

"This is exactly our position, which is to say that the Internet is a fundamental right," said French MP Patrick Bloche, an opponent of the bill.

Last month, the French Assembly passed the Projet de loi favorisant la diffusion et la protection de la création sur Internet (Bill promoting the dissemination and protection of creation on the Internet), which is intended to deny Internet access to users who repeatedly downloaded copyrighted content without paying.

The proposed law, widely referred to as the "three strikes" law, is backed by President Nicholas Sarkozy and by France’s film and record industries. It will create an agency known as HADOPI (Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet, or High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet), which will cut users off from the Internet after three instances of illegal file-sharing.

The European Parliament responded by voting overwhelmingly to amend a recent European telecoms bill to require agencies such as HADOPI to obtain permission from French courts before disconnecting violators. The amendment is currently awaiting endorsement from the Council of Ministers, which will meet on Friday.