France recently unveiled a new anti-piracy system that can cut off Internet access to users who illegally download music or film. Is this what Internet restriction will look like in the future?
Digital Journal — If you live in France and are planning to download Amélie, think again. Under a new anti-piracy system, French Internet users who use file-sharing programs to nab music and movies risk account suspension or a complete Internet blackout.
The three-way agreement between Internet service providers, the government, and the music and film industries is using a sophisticated snooping mechanism. When someone illegally downloads content in France, the ISP sends a warning message to the customer. If the messages are ignored, an account could be suspended or closed completely.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy said about the new system: "The Internet must not become a high-tech Far West, a lawless zone where outlaws can pillage works with abandon or, worse, trade in them in total impunity. And on whose backs? On artists' backs."
John Kennedy, head of the music industry's trade body IFPI, applauded the deal:
This is the single most important initiative to help win the war on online piracy that we have seen so far.French critics and consumer groups haven’t been so enthusiastic. Consumer group UFC Que Choisir regarded the agreement as “very tough, potentially destructive of freedom, anti-economic and against digital history.”
What’s missing in his argument, however, is a discussion about online privacy. France’s anti-piracy policy now allows ISPs to monitor what its customers are doing, and pass along that information to the proper authorities. Using BitTorrent to download a friend’s short story? The ISP will know. Using LimeWire to download a Family Guy clip, so you can see if the latest DVD is worth buying? The ISP will know, and likely report the “offense” to the feds.
It’s disappointing the French will now be regarded as the latest casualty of the file-sharing battle. Although Sarkozy will praise the good graces of the system for vanquishing illegal downloads from his fine nation, his naïve attitude is disheartening. The warning messages may deter some wary downloaders, but the system will cause a fierce backlash among the most rebellious of France’s youth. And when push comes to account suspension, French kids will stand up for their online rights.