18 million alleged file-sharers tracked in France

Since last October, French lawmakers have been gunning for illegal file-sharers in a three-strike system under the auspices of “Hadopi” anti-piracy legislation.

Recently, French ISPs confirmed18 million file-sharers were tracked over the past nine months as part of the initiative, with 470,000 warnings  sent out to first-time illegal file-sharing offenders.

The legislation is designed to sniff out file-sharers and issue warnings based on activity and offenses. Users are identified by their Internet providers and after three file-sharing violations, they are turned over to a judge for sentencing.

Once offenders are passed over to a French judge, the judge is tasked with determining an appropriate punishment, which could range from fines to loss of Internet privileges.

Since adopting the legislation last October 2010, a total of 18 million file-sharers were tracked by the Trident Media Group (TMG), a French organization specializing in monitoring and revealing file-sharers.

Of the 18 million alleged file-sharers monitored, one million were randomly selected by TMG and identified by their Internet providers. From there, ISPs handed over 900,000 user identities to authorities. Of this group, the government contacted 470,000 first-time offenders with warning emails, 20,000 second-time offenders, and 10 third-time offenders. Third strike offenders face a 1500 euro fine and loss of Internet rights.

The UN Human Rights Council has spoken out against the Hadopi law based on its assumption that Internet is a basic human right.

Reporters Without Borders also slammed the law, stating, “Aside from its practical omissions and shortcomings, the Hadopi law directly violates the principles of the defence of free expression by making it possible to disconnect people from the Internet. Its adoption was one of Reporters Without Borders’ reasons for adding France to the list of ‘countries under surveillance’ in its latest ‘Enemies of the Internet’ report,” the organization wrote in an article on its website.

Aside from the human rights aspect, many critics wonder if the massive effort is cost effective and if the penalties are an effective deterrent to stop file-sharers. In a recent ZDNet.fr survey, only 4% of file-sharers said they have stopped sharing illegal files for fear of detection by the government. Many of them instead make it harder for the government to find them by using proxies and VPNs.

(Via Torrent Freak