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France may outright censor pirate sites

Who needs courts?


Kevin Collier


Posted on Oct 24, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 8:25 am CDT

France is considering its first extrajudicial system to block its citizens from seeing certain websites. The really bad ones. You know, the ones that let you download the Avengers 2 before it hits French theaters.

In comments made earlier this month, and published in English Wednesday by the European digital freedom advocacy group EDRi, France’s culture minister, Fleur Pellerin, said she was considering blacklisting websites with apparent copyright violations to the general public. “[T]he establishment and the publication of blacklists appear to be perfectly in line with the competencies of the HADOPI,” she said.

HADOPI, in the off chance you’ve not been keeping up with French copyright law, is the country’s controversial anti-piracy government agency, as well as the law that created it. When it was created in 2009, it searched for users who pirated popular albums and movies using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs like BitTorrent. A “three strikes” program, it promised to disconnect users entirely if they were thought to be caught pirating more than twice.

But the program was riddled with bad justice: the first “criminal” it caught was a 40-year-old man from the town of Belfort who told a court that he didn’t know how to pirate the Rihanna songs used as evidence against him. Its first reported disconnection sentence wasn’t until 2013, when a man was sentenced to 15 days offline, plus a fine of €600 ($760), for pirating a song by the pop group Collectif Metisse, and reportedly ignoring HADOPI’s insistence he stop. A month later, HADOPI ceased suspending citizens.

EDRi’s executive director, Joe McNamee, told the Daily Dot that while the French government does block some URLs, largely concerned with blocking sexualized images of child abuse, Pellerin’s proposal would be the first time it would do so without going through the judicial system.

“Currently, in line with the basic principles of human rights law, France uses a judicial framework for blocking specific content,” he said. “It is fundamental principle of international human rights law that restrictions must be based on a predictable law.”

“What Pellerin is suggesting is that a partisan and non-judicial body, HADOPI, should make arbitrary, ad hoc decisions on what Internet providers would be obliged to block, in breach of every relevant piece of international law on the topic,” he added.

If Pellerin’s proposal does come to pass, she’ll likely face a court battle. A similar blacklist in Italy, which blocked sites like Mega, was recently suspended after a court review.

H/T The Register. Pirate Bay logo remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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*First Published: Oct 24, 2014, 5:15 pm CDT