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May 13, 2021

French anti-piracy bill sets dangerous precedent for Internet users

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he will resign from his governing duties yesterday, stepping aside and conceding ruling power to a political trio led by Jerry Bruckheimer, Simon Cowell and three of the four members of Metallica.

Okay, not exactly, but that’s at least the sentiment of a new anti-piracy bill passed by France on Tuesday that should be drawing the ire of every Internet user, not just ones with baguette crumbs all over their keyboards.

Channelling its best impression of George Orwell, France passed a bill that would allow its government to shut off the Internet connections of users in the nation thought to be downloading movies and music illegally – while still making them pay for the service.

The plan, agreed on by Sarkozy’s government, will operate as a kind of “three strikes” system.

Culprits, for lack of a better word, would receive two e-mails warning them to quit the downloading or they’d be cut off. Next, a certified letter would arrive at the connection’s address and, if the behaviour persists, zap! As you still pay for the bill, your Internet could be suspended for anywhere from two months to a year.

Even if you forget such a move “defies a European Parliament measure … that prohibits (European Union) governments from cutting off a user’s Internet connection” – as the Associated Press puts it – it’s pretty clear this isn’t how anti-piracy efforts are going to work best.

The glaring omission from the French strategy is, of course, that alleged perpetrators wouldn’t be given fair trial or a chance to challenge the charges levied against them. Concerns that this will set a terrifying Big Brother, totalitarian precedent on government’s ability to intrude on the Internet activity of its citizens are understandably validated here.

Plus, a move like this reeks of intense lobbying by movie and music production houses whose profits have been gobbled up by piracy. While we’re all for putting a stop to theft (more movie money surely means more jobs spun-off for film crews and the littler guys involved in production), this enforcement strategy just doesn’t feel right.

Does allowing a federal government to intervene on Internet activity genuinely have its country’s best interests at heart, or is this more a quick-fix to appease the complaints of studio heads whose cries grow impossible to ignore?

Truth is, no government knows really how to handle the issue just yet. Canada is working on legislation in partnership with countries like the U.S. and New Zealand, but it’s still a ways off from ironing out the issues on an increasingly complex concern.

No one has things figured out, but if one thing’s for sure, we’re guessing this French legislation doesn’t last long.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...