Anti-Piracy’s Avant-Garde

A recent law passed by the French Lower House brings the promise of controversy and the possibility of anti-piracy legislation throughout Europe and the United States. Popularly known as the ‘Three Strikes’ Piracy Law, the controversial legislation passed on May 14, 2009 permits a new government agency to interrupt the internet of persons caught pirating. Issuing an electronic warning after the first offense, the agency is further permitted to issue a second warning through the post and, finally, disconnect the user’s internet for up to a year.
Though welcomed by many and heralded as good legislation designed at protecting the rights of intellectual property creators, the ‘Three Strikes’ law has already met criticism and resistance. In fact, the May 14 bill is but a close relative of a similar April 9, 2009 bill that was rejected by the French National Assembly.i, vi In addition, the European Parliament recently issued a statement in anticipation of the May 14 legislation forbidding governments in the EU from disconnecting the internet of individuals without first obtaining a court order.
Indeed, it is the legislation’s bypassing of the court system that is most alarming. Seen by many as a direct assault on individual liberties, the bill fosters a new debate: whose rights should laws protect? Proponents of the bill believe the rights of content creators should first and foremost be protected. After all, pirates are but thieves and law-breakers. Yet do the ends justify the means? Certainly there exists the opportunity to silence dissenting individuals and groups through mere accusations of piracy. Such short term gains as the ‘Three Strikes’ Piracy Law might produce could well be for naught if the freedom to express oneself – either politically or creatively – is simultaneously curtailed.
And such concerns are not without merit. The executive in charge of web innovations at TF1, a French television broadcaster, was dismissed after a private e-mail to his representative in the National Assembly that shared his criticism of the then proposed ‘Three-Strikes’ Piracy Law was intercepted by his senior management.ii
Yet this assault upon individual liberties has been slowed as the French Constitutional Council recently denied the new French government agency the ability to severe an individual’s internet connection. In what can been seen as a direct response both to the aforementioned concerns and to the many favoring unrestricted internet accessii, the Constitutional Council has reaffirmed that freedom of expression and communication are fundamental rights irrevocable without court intervention.
Criticism and outrage aside, technology progresses at incredible rates and those determined and savvy enough to pirate will devise new methods of concealing their thievery. In addition, many are concerned for those mistakenly accused of piracy and the resulting disruption to business and personal lives. Indeed, another very serious concern is a potential side effect of the bill that could inhibit future internet development and growth in France.ii
Yet for now, the law stands and begs an answer to the question: is this the avant garde of anti-piracy legislation in Europe? For Great Britain, the answer is no. The British government has instead opted to foster collaborative efforts between the British recording industry and British internet service providers. In fact, a new government agency has already been created to act as a mediator between the two seemingly uncooperative entities.iv
But what of the enactment of such a law in the United States? Already the RIAA is lobbying for legislation similar to France’s ‘Three Strikes’ law. At first, it would seem such a law would not withstand public outcry for the invasion of the individual’s right to privacy is a contradiction to the principles upon which the nation was founded. Yet the encroachment of government into our personal lives that has been and is being fostered by both the past and present administrations allows for that possibility to remain a reality (perhaps the most recent example of legislation in the United States designed to dramatically enhance the tools available to government agencies combating piracy is the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act).
We cannot yet say with certainty if France’s ambitious approach to combating piracy will yield the desired effect. Courts have yet to rule, results have yet to be produced, and time has yet to tell. We may, however, ask ourselves: as a global entertainment industry, are we willing to sacrifice liberties in the pursuit of profits? Are we prepared to embrace the ethics of piracy and defiantly trod upon the rights of others?
Leigh, Philips. “France Passes ‘Three Strikes’ Piracy Law.” Business Week 14 May 2009. 12 June 2009 .
Pfanner, Eric. “France Approves Crackdown on Internet Piracy.” The New York Times 13 May 2009. 12 June 2009 .
Pichevin, Aymeric. “French ‘Three-Strikes’ Scheme Curtailed.” Billboard 10 June 2009: 9-9. 10 June 2009. 17 June 2009 .
Boorstin, Julia. “France Seeks ‘Three Strikes’ Law vs. Web Piracy.” CNBC 14 Apr. 2009. 08 June 2009 .
Wallace, Brenda. “France Passes “Three Strikes” Anti-Piracy Law.” Weblog post. 13 May 2009. 13 June 2009 .
Vilches, Jose. “France Votes Down Three Strikes Anti-Piracy Law.” 9 Apr. 2009. 14 June 2009 .
Butler, Tonya. “Legislative Update – Lobby This: RIAA! MPAA! MEIEA?” MEIEA eZine Fall 2008. MEIEA. 17 June 2009 .
Bryce McLaughlin, class of 2011, studies music-business at the University of the Pacific.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *