After a long and hard fought battle, President Sarkozy’s government has finally been able to force through a controversial “three strikes” law against illegal file sharing. Under the new law, known as loi Hadopi after the initials of the agency set up to police it, the first time that a user is suspected of infringing copyright by file sharing, a warning e-mail is sent. A second instance would result in a letter being sent and the third occasion would result in disconnection from the internet. This disconnection may last between two and 12 months and there is no right of judicial appeal against such a disconnection. It was this lack of recourse to the courts that the bill’s opponents objected to particularly, as they complained that the actions of hackers, using fake IP addresses to hide their activities, may lead to innocent users being disconnected. This led to calls for the European Commission to recognise internet access as a fundamental right that cannot be taken away without a right of appeal. The opposition in the French parliament also focussed on a clause that meant that disconnected users would still be liable to pay their internet service provider. The original bill had been passed by the Senate, but was, surprisingly, rejected by the National Assembly.

The law is supported by the film and record industries, which are also lobbying for similar measures to be adopted in the United Kingdom that would involve a series of warnings and “graduated technical solutions” to prevent further illegal activity.