France’s top constitutional court has watered down a law backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy that was aimed at punishing Internet pirates.
Last month the ruling majority agreed to set up an authority to track illegal downloaders, giving it the power to cut off access for repeat offenders. But the law, known as Hadopi, has always had its detractors, particularly among the arts-loving Socialist opposition. “The decision is clear – the heart of the bill has been cancelled. And there is still the problem of funding for the arts which has not been addressed.” said the Socialist President in the Lower House, Jean-Marc Ayrault. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the body should only be allowed to issue warnings and any decision to cut off access must be taken by a judge. A defiant Culture Minister Christine Albanel insisted the law would be still passed before the summer. Opponents say access to the Internet should be a fundamental right – and feared intrusive monitoring of online activities. However, the music industry, which wants a crackdown on illegal downloading of copyrighted work, has welcomed France’s efforts.