The adoption of the French version of three-strikes legislation has been filled with more plot twists than a Brazilian soap opera. First it got rejected by Parliament, then it passed, and now the French constitutional court has rejected it on the grounds that access to the Internet is a human right, and cannot be taken away by administrative means. I am pleased, but hardly surprised by the news. I have always believed that any implementation of three-strikes legislation would fall down at the first legal hurdle, and the French ruling has positively proven this belief. Due process of law is an important legal principle, and only courts of law can declare guilt which strips-down citizens of their rights. It is inconceivable that any court would look at the administrative punishment being proposed in legislation such as HADOPI, and would allow it to remain intact. The ruling is online in French, and thanks to the wonders of Google Translate, I can see that it is precisely this argument the one that swayed the court. Innocent until proven guilty is a basic human right, and although this is not a criminal sanction being discussed, the importance of Internet access is such that it would require a court ruling to circumvent it.
Hopefully, the UK government will notice this and it will not include three-strikes in next week’s final Digital Britain report. Copyright owners have launched a desperate campaign to get three-strikes back on the table, but their horror stories of billions of pounds lost and of massive lay-offs sound hollow, more scaremongering from the people who have been cooking trying to scare the government into action for quite a while now. The problem of course, is that the industry has cried “wolf” once too many. It bears repeating that Ben Goldacre completely dismantled some dodgy claims last Saturday. Then Charles Arthur wrote an excellent analysis in The Guardian where he rightly points out that one of the reasons why music sales are down is because people spend more on games and DVDs. The industry’s figures simply do not add up.
Once again, Vive La France!