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France Senate approves new version of Internet piracy bill

[JURIST] The French Senate [official website, in French] on Wednesday approved [vote, in French] a new version [text, in French] of a controversial Internet piracy law after portions of it were rejected [decision, in French; JURIST report] last month by France's Constitutional Council [official website]. The original law subjected violators of copyright laws to suspension of Internet access at the discretion of a newly-created administrative authority bestowed with judicial power. The new law leaves the discretion to suspend services to a judge, since the Constitutional Council ruled that the power to restrict the fundamental right of accessing the Internet should not be entrusted to an administrative authority. The determination to suspend access will be made on an infringer's third violation, after previously receiving two warnings. Senate Socialists voted against the measure [text, in French] after Senator Bodin Yannick [official profile, in French] called it fragile, inefficient, and ambiguous. Senate Socialist Marie-Christine Blandin [official profile, in French] expressed concern over the fact that people are responsible under the law for those illegally using their internet connections, reasoning that it jeopardizes the presumption of innocence. Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Education, and Communication Jacques Legendre [official profile, in French] maintained that the law was important to protect culture and its creators. The measure, which was approved by a 189-142 vote, must now go before the lower house of parliament.

The bill, introduced by Cultural Minister Christine Albanel and supported by President Nicholas Sarkozy [official websites, in French], is aimed at reducing illegal downloads of protected works by proposing an escalating series of responses for users that are caught. The original version of the law was challenged [JURIST report] by the Socialist party on the grounds that it failed to find a balance between the rights of Internet users and those of copyright holders. In May, the original bill was approved by the National Assembly after initially defeating [JURIST reports] it in April. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry [organization website], representing the worldwide recording industry, has welcomed the legislation [press release], although it has been opposed [press release, in French] by French consumer interest group UFC-Que Choisir [advocacy website, in French] as well as cable and Internet providers [France 24 report].

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