Both online and off, piracy is at an all time high, as is efforts by national governments to crack down on copyright infringement in its various forms. While some legal experts say such efforts are making high-tech nations into "nations of lawbreakers", many government and industry officials feel that they are essential. The gaming industry has moved ahead on aggressive litigation targeting those suspected of sharing games, and offline U.S. and Canadian border patrol agents under ACTA will soon be able to seize and destroy laptops and MP3 players suspected to contain infringed content.
Now one of the most punitive pieces of legislation, France's new plan to terminate file sharers, has been given the green light.
Just weeks ago, the measure was stalled after being passed resoundingly by the French Senate. The European Union's European Parliament passed a measure prohibiting internet severance for file sharers, earlier this year by a resounding 88 percent ruling it too punitive. A week ago, the European Parliament rejected France's pleas to overturn the provision, citing the strong majority it passed by.
Now, in a dramatic reversal the EU has changed its position after pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Despite the vast majority supporting a ban on termination, France bullied its way to having the amendment removed from the Telecom Package, a set of EU laws, during a meeting in Brussels last week.
Denmark, Austria, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary all strongly opposed scrapping the measure, even during the meeting. However they caved at the last moment as France threatened to hold up the law-making process, putting the other important electronics provisions in the Telecom bill at risk. In the end France had its way, with three nations abstaining in a show of protest.
The new Telecom Package strips the EU of its authority to regulate file-sharing, instead placing important enforcement decisions in the hands of member nations. France's conservatives and liberals blasted the decision, with two MEPs – Guy Bono of the Socialists and Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the Greens -- among the vocal protesters. They say that the French presidency's "dictation" will infringe upon citizens' rights and represents a mockery of European Union democracy.
France is now expected to enact its termination plan, as opposition from the left and right wings seems insufficient to overcome the centrists who dominate the French legislation. Under the new law, those found sharing files by government agents will receive two warning letters, and on the "third-strike" have their internet terminated. The government expects to receive monitoring support from internet providers. A new government body to oversee the anti-piracy efforts will also be created.
Opponents argue that the proposal cuts people off from an integral component of work and society. France would become the first major nation to adopt such harsh punishments for file-sharers.
While some countries like France and Sweden are moving to take away the rights of citizens who engage in piracy, others are actually adopting softer stances on file sharing. Italy recently legalized file-sharing, despite strong industry protests.