Saturday 15 September 2012

Innocence of the act is no defence

It seems that a 40-year-old Frenchman who was summoned to court in France under the French anti piracy ‘HADOPI’ three strikes legislation for illegally downloading pirated music, has found himself on the receiving end of a conviction – even though it was his wife who illegally downloaded the two Rihanna songs in question. 

PC World report that Alain Prevost was fined for failing to secure his Wi-Fi network after Prevost self-incriminated himself by admitting he knew his wife illegally downloaded the songs. Under French law the “three strikes” are as follows: first, an email message is sent to the alleged offender: Secondly if the alleged offender illegally downloads copyrighted material again within the next six months, a certified letter is sent to the alleged offender: Thirdly if the alleged offender does not stop downloading illegally within one year from the receipt of that letter, the offender's Internet Service Provider (ISP) is required to suspend their Internet access. 

According to TorrentFreak, content owners have identified a total of three million French IP addresses associated with piracy since October 2010. Of these three million IP addresses identified, 1.15 million were eligible for a first strike, 102,854 eligible for a second strike, and 340 eligible for a third. Of those 340 just 14 were referred to French prosecutors. Prevost’s defence  (apart from not actually committing the infringing acts) was that whilst he did receive the first and second communications, he actually took himself offline as he was divorcing his wife, and whilst prosecutors say he did not respond at all, he said he did respond to the third letter and his wife’s lawyer sent a letter to the HADOPI agency. Prevost also says that as he was offline he received no further emails from HAPOI. He was then summoned to Paris to explain himself, but he didn't want to pay the cost of travel for such a (what he assumed) trivial matter. He was then summoned to his local Police station and despite explaining it was his wife who was the guilty party, ended up in court. 

The report says that even with his wife (ex-wife?) as a witness, Prevost was found guilty by le Tribunal de Police de Belfort of failing to secure his Wi-Fi network, and was fined 150 euros. The court did not terminate his Internet connection. If any of our French readers can add to the detail of this report by way of comment, this blogger would be very grateful. 


FrenchKat said...

The HADOPI law actually makes a distinction between a "complementary penalty" to the act of infringement and liability for negligence with respect to one's internet connection. The former means that the state has shown that the person responsible for the internet connection (i.e., the subscriber) was the actual infringer, who then risks the standard penalties for copyright infringement as well as a suspension of his internet connection for up to 1 year. The latter refers to the situation where the subscriber is being held accountable for his failure to properly secure his internet connection and liability in no way depends on a showing that he himself has committed an act of infringement. In this latter scenario (which appears to be the case in the recent ruling), the accused risks a fine and a suspension of his internet connection for up to 1 month.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bumble in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist put a similar case for the defence like this:

"That is no excuse," replied Mr. Brownlow. "… and indeed [you] are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction."

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.”