France considers smartphone tax for anti-piracy revamp

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France considers smartphone tax for anti-piracy revamp
Pierre Lescure and Aurelie Filipetti launch the CA2 report. Source: French government.

Will soften three-strikes piracy law.

France's unpopular anti-piracy law and adjunct government enforcement agency look set to be scrapped as part of a proposed re-balancing of intellectual property legislation.

The law, known as Haute Autorité pour la diffusion des œuvres et la protection des droits sur internet (HADOPI) was introduced by the previous Sarkozy government. While it will be removed, the graduated response system ("three strikes") will be retained according to a report by an eight-member committee, tasked by France's minister of culture, Aurélie Filipetti, to consider changes to the existing law.

The report, named Culture-Acte 2, puts forward some eighty proposals to align French legislation with the digital era.

Greater availability of digital works forms a is a cornerstone of the report's proposals, with the time to access films via video on demand to be cut from the current 36 month average to no more than 18 months.

To finance the objectives of the CA2, the report proposes a tax of one percent on smartphones and tablets. 

This, the report writers say, does not amount to a "Google Tax" under which search engines and others that reference content will be made to pay for the privilege. The legality of such a tax is questionable, the report says.

Anti-piracy efforts will be directed towards counterfeiting rather than file sharing, the report recommends. The current illegal file sharing penalties will be reduced to a maximum of 60 euros with no removal of internet access.

Under HADOPI, users accused of illegal file sharing faced criminal liability, fines of up to A$1,760 and having their internet connection suspended for up to a month.

Commenting on the release of the report that took nine months to complete, committee head and former journalist Pierre Lescure called the internet a "universal, all-conquering and gratifying revolution".

"The crazy ambition of the report is that such a revolution will benefit the public and also creators," Lescure tweeted.

Continuing on the French Revolution theme, Lescure said the hoped outcome of the new legislation would be ruffled heads rather than severed ones, indicating a less punitive enforcement regime.

The anti-piracy agency had been criticised for being inefficient and expensive to run at around A$14 million a year, sending out over a million first strike notices last year, yet not obtaining prosecutions against users accused of illegal file sharing.

Minister Filipetti also said HADOPI had failed with its primary objective, which was to encourage greater development and access to legal content.

While HADOPI is on its way out, the report proposes that the state censorship bureau, the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel or CSA, takes over the enforcement of digital rights with the aim of eventually becoming the regulator in the area.


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