During the last week, French Internet users have been starting to receive letters as part of the graduated warning system built in to the controversial Hadopi anti-piracy legislation. The email warnings are being sent by Hadopi via France’s ISPs. But even at this early stage at least one ISP is refusing to forward them to their customers prompting complaints from rivals that they are seeking to achieve a competitive advantage.
Under France’s fledgling Hadopi anti-piracy law, alleged file-sharers will monitored and tracked back to their ISPs. There, an IP address will be matched to a subscriber and that bill-paying individual will be on his first infringement warning.
After three such incidences they will be reported to a judge who will be empowered to hand down a range of penalties, from fines right through to Internet disconnections.
The initial warnings, sent by Hadopi to alleged infringers via the country’s ISPs, have already started to go out.
“Attention, your internet connection has been used to commit legally-noted acts that could constitute a breach of the law,” they begin.
However, customers of one ISP won’t be receiving any, at least for now.
“The French ISP ‘Free’ decided not to send the warning letters to their subscribers, because the law does not mandate them to do so,” Guillaume Champeau, Editor of French news outlet Numerama told us this morning.
“The law says that it is the Hadopi which has to send the warning ‘for his own account and under its stamp, by electronic means, through the (ISPs)’. It never says how it should be sent ‘through the ISPs’.”
Furthermore, although ISPs have been given the job of identifying and matching up IP addresses with the alleged infringers’ personal details (on pain of 1,500 euros per day per IP fine for failing to do so), there are no penalties in place for not sending out warnings.
“The thing is, the HADOPI and most ISPs decided it was more convenient and secure to use the ISPs’ SMTP [mail] servers [for sending out warnings],” explained Guillaume.
“But ‘Free’ did not agree to Hadopi using its SMTP servers without a signed agreement, which apparently was refused, probably because they required payment or other forms of compensations.”
Of course, any ISP that does not send warnings to its customers could only become more popular with Internet users, so it’s no surprise that some ISPs are unhappy with Free for at least appearing to opt-out of the Hadopi process.
One ISP, Numericable, has sent a letter of complaint to Hadopi asking it to investigate Free on the basis that it could be seeking to achieve a competitive advantage from its stance. The ISP Orange also accused Free of “maintaining the image of a certain laxity”.
“Yesterday, the French Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand announced that the Government would issue a decree to sanction non-collaborating ISPs,” added Guillaume.
“But it is yet to be seen if it can be legally issued, since the law does not mandate any obligation for the ISPs to send the emails themselves.”
Nevertheless, although Free is not currently sending out warnings to its subscribers, it does not necessarily mean that they have not been issued. Time will tell how this plays out.