French "three-strikes" law ruled unconstitutional

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It appears that France’s controversial three strikes anti-piracy law, which would disconnect repeat Internet copyright infringers for up to a year, won’t come to fruition after all. Even though it passed the country’s National Assembly last month, after some initial resistance and tremendous pressure from the Sarkozy regime on the other side, the French Constitutional Council today overturned the decision claiming that communication and liberty of expression are fundamental rights that only a judge can rule on.

Indeed, the council found that the “Création et Internet” law violated the Declaration of 1789, which dictates that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As a result, the law will be enacted without the “third-strike” element of cutting off people's Internet access – instead allowing the entertainment industry only to send copyright infringement warnings, something they’ve already done in the past.

The decision is a setback for President Nicholas Sarkozy, who argued that the law was crucial to protecting artistic creation in the digital era, and a huge victory to everyone opposing it. With the uproar this so-called “three strikes” law has caused in France, and an earlier measure passed by the European Parliament prohibiting EU governments from cutting off a user's Internet connection without a court order, it seems unlikely that other European countries will propose similar laws.

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