French Constitutional Council neuters piracy law


— 9:54 AM on June 11, 2009

France's "three strikes and you're out" piracy law will be dead on arrival. Well, mostly. Although both chambers of the nation's parliament approved the bill in May, the French Constitutional Council has destroyed some of its core elements, ruling them unconstitutional.

According to Le Figaro, the Council took issue with the premise of accused pirates being presumed guilty and seeing their Internet access shut off unless they, somehow, proved their innocence. The ruling referred to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Interestingly, the Constitutional Council also invoked article 11 of the Declaration, which gives citizens the right to "speak, write, print freely, save [if it is necessary] to respond to the abuse of this liberty, in the cases determined by the law." According to the Council, "Today, this freedom implies, with regard to the broad development of the Internet and its importance with respect to democratic life and the expression of ideas and opinions, the freedom to access those services to communicate with the public online."

In the end, only a judge will have the power to take citizens offline—a power the three-strikes law would have given to an administrative body called HADOPI, which would have worked with ISPs to disconnect suspected pirates en masse. Now, HADOPI will only have the authority to warn users that they (allegedly) downloaded copyrighted works illegally.

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