Hadopi censured

Pascale Paoli Lebailly

Opponents of the text are jubilant. France’s Constitutional Council has censured the retaliation part of the recently-voted Hadopi law on illegal downloads, that set up internet subscription cuts for illegal downloaders. The Council has ruled that the internet is “a component of the freedom of expression and consuming” and that “in the French law, the presumption of innocence prevails”.

According to the Constitutional Council, the Hadopi Law, controversially voted in to protect rights owners against illegal downloads, infringes two articles of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens related to the points mentioned above. The role of the Hadopi High Authority will now be limited to warning people making illegal downloads that they have been located but “only a judge can impose sanctions under the law”, the Council adds.

France’s government has been knocked by the decision but is not out yet. Minister of Culture Christine Albanel has announced she wanted to amend the Creation and Internet law and complete it, so giving the power to judges. But to amend the law, the government will have to come back to Parliament, where the first debate had been particulary passionate.

Christine Albanel also added that the High Authority, now charged with the preventive aspect of the law, will be set up according to the original calendar so that the first warning mails can be sent to web subscribers as soon as next autumn.

However, the Constitutional Council’s decision appears a setback for Christine Albanel who had asserted during the parliamentary debate that the internet “could not be considered as a fundamental right.”

On May 6, European Deputies also voted in an amendment to the Telecom package that aims at favouring a judicial authority to cut web subscriptions rather than an administrative body.