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France parliament defeats controversial internet piracy legislation

[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Thursday defeated a controversial internet piracy bill [materials, in French] that would have cut off internet access for those who repeatedly illegally download copyrighted material. Under the bill, which won preliminary parliamentary approval [JURIST report] last week, any internet user tagged by an ISP as downloading the material would initially receive a warning, followed by up to a one-year ban for the second offense. Users would be responsible for controlling the use of their own connections, and the High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet [materials, in French], referred to as "Hadopi" by local media, would use discretion in determining whether to ban offending users. After receiving initial parliamentary approval for the bill last week, the passage of the measure was apparently seen as such a certainty by politicians that few lawmakers were present to vote [AP report], and the bill was defeated by a vote of 21-15.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry [organization website], representing the worldwide recording industry, has welcomed the legislation [press release], while French consumer interest group UFC-Que Choisir [advocacy website] has denounced it [press release, in French] as ineffective. The assembly began considering the bill [JURIST report] in March after it passed through the French senate in October 2008, following in the wake of other nations' attempts to balance protecting copyrighted materials with privacy concerns. In December, the Recording Industry Association of America [association website] dropped a number of lawsuits against illegal file-sharers after some of the defendants counter-sued the association [JURIST reports] 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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