Is 'Three Strikes' the Right Approach to Copyright Enforcement?

Lora Bentley

In March, La Quadrature du Net published a draft version of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement somehow obtained from closed-door negotiations between the United States and nine other countries. The treaty addresses copyright infringement and counterfeiting of several types, but the language addressing the distribution of pirated works through file-sharing has been of particular interest to the tech sector.


The draft of the treaty at that time contained what has been called a "three strikes" provision, which would require Internet service providers, or Internet content providers, to terminate the accounts of customers who repeatedly download copyrighted material illegally.


Understandably, groups like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, the members of which create that copyrighted material and deserve to be compensated for it, are all for the three-strikes approach to copyright enforcement.


France likes the idea, too. Or at least it did when it adopted a similar provision as law in September. The law authorizes the government to suspend the Internet access of anyone caught illegally downloading copyrighted material after they have been warned twice to change their behavior. But there's a problem.


According to The New York Times, the agency France set up this year to enforce the new law has yet to send a single warning, let alone suspend a broadband connection. In June, the agency president promised the first warnings were coming soon. As a result, some observers in France are beginning to question the wisdom of adopting the law in the first place. Others, however, say implementing and enforcing the law will just take time.


Whether France keeps the law or drops it, those who are drafting the ACTA treaty would be wise to consider the country's experience.

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