French piracy bill accused of ‘Big Brother’ policies

April 2009


The French government has been accused of “Big Brother” tactics over an anti-piracy bill which aims to punish people who repeatedly illegally download music and films by cutting off their internet access for up to a year. The proposed law, championed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, will be debated in parliament this week, will create a new state surveillance agency to monitor internet users online. Web surfers illegally downloading music, films or video games will be identified and they will first receive an email warning, then a registered letter, and if caught again they will see their web access cut off for up to a year. The culture minister, Christine Albanel, has argued that France is “the world number one” in illegal downloading. In 2006, an estimated 1bn pirated files were shared in France. A recent poll found 57% of 18-24 year-olds admitted they had made illegal downloads and one in three French internet users admitted to online piracy. Although the senate has passed the bill, a heated row over civil liberties is expected as parliament debates the law this week. Christian Paul, a Socialist MP leading opposition to the law, said it would create a precedent for “massive surveillance” of the internet and society as a whole. “Criminalising a whole generation is a dead end,” he added, warning that crisis-hit record companies needed to look at their business plans instead. Socialists argue that the law, which focuses on file-sharing or download sites rather than new technologies of streaming, is inconsistent and already outdated. Rather amusingly indie rockers MGMT are suing President Sarkozy’s UMP party for using their music in an advert and at a national congress without permission.

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