France Seeks 'Three Strikes' Law vs Web Piracy

France is determined to shut down Internet piracy, and President Nicolas Sarkozy won't take no for an answer. Sarkozy is working to pass a "Three Strikes" rule that would kick anyone who illegally downloads three times, off the internet.

If France were to pass this kind of law, other countries like the U.K. could quickly follow suit. France's upper house passed the law, but last week the National Assembly rejected it, in part because banned Internet users would still have to pay for their broadband service.

Now Sarkozy's government is back at work, tweaking the bill to resubmit it to parliament. Tomorrow the president of France's National Assembly and party leaders will meet to discuss tweaks and a timetable. Experts fully expect some version of this bill to eventually pass.

But enforcement won't be easy. Pirates are smart enough to steal copyrighted content — won't they be smart enough to figure out how to get broadband access? To tackle this issue the bill would create a government agency to find pirates and tell their Internet service providers to cut them off. Those government agents are going to have to be sneaky and persistent. Plus there's the challenge of getting the service providers on board.

Piracy is a huge problem for Hollywood, which, according to the MPAA, generates a disproportionate percentage of movies distributed around the world. There's no doubt that a crackdown is necessary: Hollywood loses about $20 billion every year to piracy. But does it make more sense to attack the people pirating content, or the companies that enable them?

The U.K. has discussed a similar three-strikes rule for online pirates. But the British recording industry and British Internet service providers haven't been able to make a deal on how to tackle the problem. They need so much help that Britain's communications minister created a new government agency to mediate between the two.

Would three strikes work in the U.S.? Because of the sheer scale of the problem it would be challenging to go after everyone who illegally downloaded a song, to say the least. Could broadband service providers be enlisted? Maybe; we'll see how it goes in France and the U.K.

Could consumers be forced to pay even when they've been kicked offline? In the U.S., there's no way that consumers, even those responsible for piracy, will put up with that.

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