Controversial plan finally sees legislative approval

France's presidential cabinet endorsed the controversial “three-strikes” plan late last week, which will disconnect French pirates from their broadband connections if caught downloading illegal material three times.

Set to take effect this January, French web surfers on their third strike will be kicked off their internet connection for a period of one year. For strikes one and two, surfers will receive written warnings via e-mail and registered mail.

A similar plan in the European Union was voted down last April, with many EU member countries citing concerns over civil liberties and human rights. France's plans continues unaffected however – The New York Times called the EU vote “symbolic” -- as member nations are generally permitted to govern themselves as they see fit.

The French content industry “hailed” the three-strikes law as a model for the European Union as a whole.

“This is the most important initiative to help win the war on online piracy that we have seen,” said IFPI executive John Kennedy.

“There is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone,” said French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

A number of European news sources noted that Sarkozy seems to have taken a personal interest piracy after marrying Italian model and folk singer Carla Bruni.

“We run the risk of witnessing a genuine destruction of culture,” said Sarkozy at the proposal's introduction in November 2007, who called it a "decisive moment for the future of a civilized Internet."

Speaking last April, Kennedy said that governments generally decided that there is “no easy solution,” and that banning pirates from the internet serves to be the “most attractive” option available.

Enforcement will be handled by a newly-created administrative copyright-enforcement agency called “Hadopi,” which stands for the French version of “High authority for copyright protection and dissemination of works on the internet.” The firm will receive complaints from copyright owners and hand out punishments when necessary.

France's Culture Minister, Christine Albanel, said the law's purpose was to replace criminal sanctions with “dissuasion,” and notes that banning people from the Internet takes a “preventative and educational approach.”

The law faces stiff resistance from a wide variety of government and public interest groups, including France's own data protection agency. French newspaper Libération noted that families could lose their internet connection if their children – or neighbors' children – downloaded music via an unprotected wireless router.

The Times Online notes that the French entertainment industry will drop “existing copyright protection” -- presumably meaning that they will strip DRM – from media purchased in France, in order to facilitate its playback on a wide variety of devices.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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