The French government has just dealt a serious blow to the big entertainment lobby's assault on the Internet. The Hadopi "three strikes" law has been, well, struck out. The Hadopi measures were introduced in 2009 by President Sarkozy, and threatened to disconnect from the Internet those suspected of online copyright infringement after three written warnings. This flagship "anti-piracy" measure has now run aground.
The new French culture minister said "Hadopi has not fulfilled its mission of developing legal content offerings...In financial terms, [spending] 12 million Euros and 60 agents—that’s expensive to send a million e-mails... the suspension of Internet access seems to be a disproportionate penalty given the intended goal."
All of us in the digital rights movement had pointed out years ago that this was a disproportionate tool, not least because it could lead to collective punishment of entire households. Equally, we warned that it would be an administrative nightmare, a waste of money with no positive aims.
The French retreat from the three strikes approach has lessons for policy making across Europe. In the UK the 2010 Digital Economy Act contained so-called graduated response legislation. It has not come in to force yet and remains firmly in the long grass. We must surely ditch the Digital Economy Act now, and EU governments should reject the hounding of individuals and Internet cut offs. There has been a long and tedious discussion about the merits of graduated response legislation. We now know it is simply not tenable.
This is a good moment to take a step back in what has been a fraught debate. Let's stop digital policy being hijacked by narrow interest groups claiming to speak for the creative sector.