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France parliament weighs cutting file-sharers' internet access

[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday began considering a bill [materials, in French] that would allow the government to shut off internet access for those who repeatedly share or download copyrighted music and movies illegally. The bill, supported by French Minister of Culture Christine Albanel [official profile, in French] and passed by the country's Senate in October 2008, has been criticized [EDRI release] by consumer and rights groups who say it infringes on civil liberties and could lead to wholesale internet surveillance. Consumer group UFC-Que Choisir urged Assembly members to reject the bill [press release, in French], arguing that most illegal downloading could be stopped by the creation of subscription-based services that give consumers better legal access to copyrighted materials.

Other countries have also been struggling with how to balance protecting copyrighted material on the internet with privacy concerns. In December, the Recording Industry Association of America [association website] dropped [JURIST report] a number of lawsuits against illegal file-sharers after some of the defendants counter-sued the association [JURIST report] for tactics it used to track their internet use. In January 2008, the European Court of Justice [official website] held [judgment; JURIST report] that telecommunication companies operating in Spain were not obligated to disclose the identities of internet users suspected of illegal file sharing. In July 2007, a Belgium court ordered a file sharing website to filter or block access [JURIST report] to users sharing copyrighted material.

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