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Second wave of warning emails under controversial HADOPI law in France

Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has expressed concern over the decision of French authorities on the second stage of enforcement of the controversial HADOPI law, under which Internet users suspected of illegal file-sharing could end up having their Internet connection suspended.

After starting to send warning emails on October 5, the authorities have announced that they are now sending out a second wave of emails accompanied by a certified letter. If violators continue to illegally download copyrighted material, the HADOPI’s Rights Protection Commission (CPD) can then ask a judge to order their Internet Service Provider to disconnect them for a month.

According to CPD president Mireille Imbert-Quaretta, 70,000 Internet users have so far received an initial warning email under HADOPI’s “graduated response” procedure. She acknowledged that it was impossible to verify whether the warnings had actually been read by the persons to whom they were sent.

Imbert-Quaretta’s claim that the authorities have “reached the rate of 2,000 warnings a day” suggests to RSF that they are paying too much attention to figures. The press freedom organization regards the suspension of Internet access as a violation of freedom of expression and HADOPI’s so-called judicial guarantees as nothing more than an illusion.

The 70,000 email warnings so far sent are the outcome of 100,000 requests to ISPs to identify suspected offenders from IP addresses. Imbert-Quaretta still hopes to reach the rate of 10,000 warnings a day, the volume cited when parliament debated the HADOPI law.

“Less than 10 per cent of those who were sent warnings (about 7,000 people), got back to us directly,” Imbert-Quaretta said. “Three quarters of them asked us to identify the offending material, while the others disputed the claim or suggested that their computers must have been hacked.”

Hackers are able to use other people’s Internet connections, so there is a real risk of people being wrongly convicted of illegal file-sharing. Imbert-Quaretta’s response is that “everyone has a duty to protect their connection,” but this ignores the enormous disparities in knowledge of computer technology on the part of the public.

The government issued a decree on October 12 requiring ISPs to send these warning emails to their subscribers. One ISP, Free, filed an appeal against the decree on December 10 claiming it violated the confidentiality of its subscribers’ personal data. The case is still pending.

Date posted: January 19, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 167