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Deprivation of Internet Access For Illegal Downloading?

By Kevin Fayle on April 21, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
In this post, FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod discusses the workings - and shortcomings - of a law proposed in France to limit the internet access of those found to have illegally downloaded music at least three times.

Here's a novel idea - a three strikes law that would bar people from the Internet who illegally download music online.  True or false?

True inasmuch as such legislation, backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, was proposed recently in France, according to BBC News.  False to the extent that the proposed legislation was rejected and did not become law, as BBC News reports - but an amended version of the legislation apparently will be considered in several weeks. It is reported that under the suggested three strikes scheme, a new state agency would be created; that agency first would send a warning email to illegal downloaders, it would follow up with a letter for second offenses, and it then would terminate the Internet connections for one year for three-peat offenders.

There are various problems with this contemplated scheme.  

First, the new state agency certainly could make mistakes in determining whether a given person truly has been guilty of one, two or three downloading offenses.  This is especially true as it not uncommon for people to have their online identities spoofed or hijacked.  

Second, enforcement could be difficult.  Even a true three-peat offender while cut off from the Internet based on a given online identity and from a given computer, very possibly could pop up on the Web using a different pseudonym and computer.

Third, assuming the proposed law could be enforced effectively, the punishment at times might not fit the crimes.  Imagine a scenario in which a person has been caught three different times illegally downloading a single song.  For those three downloaded songs, that person would be barred from Internet access for a full year.  The world now is an online world.  To be deprived of Internet access is to adversely affect someone in many ways, including career development, education, political involvement, social connections, shopping and participation in hobbies.

Lawmakers need to come up with a better solution.

See Also:
French Lawmakers Say "Non!" to Internet Piracy Law (FindLaw's Technologist)

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