France acts against net pirates

CD being placed in computer France is trying to tackle those who pirate pop by throwing them offline

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Sixty French net users could have their connection turned off for a month after ignoring letters telling them to stop infringing copyright.

They are the first to reach the end of the controversial process France operates as a way of tackling pirates.

About 650,000 people have received one warning and a further 44,000 are on their second warning.

The statistics were revealed in the annual report from the French agency that runs the scheme.

Deterrent effect

A government advisor is set to visit the 60 people who have ignored warnings to find out more about their circumstances.

The information gathered during the interviews will determine whether a case file is passed to prosecutors. Those who are prosecuted and found guilty could have to pay a fine of 1,500 euros (£1,295) or have their net link disconnected for up to a month.

The tough anti-piracy laws are overseen by an agency called Hadopi (Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet) which was set up in January 2010 but only began sending out letters to suspected infringers in October of that year.

The three-strikes law gives people several chances to mend their ways when found to be infringing copyright by swapping music, movies and games via peer-to-peer networks.

Speaking to French broadcaster TF1, Hadopi boss Marie-Françoise Marais said research it had done suggested the letters it was sending out were acting as a deterrent. However, she added, the results had to be taken with "caution".

Ms Marais said Hadopi was looking into reports that some file-sharers had turned to different technologies to avoid detection and keep on infringing. So far, she said, the agency could not pursue those people because the law only requires it to monitor peer-to-peer services.

The French approach is seen as one of the toughest crackdowns on net piracy.

In the UK, the government plans a letter-writing campaign to people who are persistently downloading movies and music without paying for it.

The letters are intended to educate users rather than punish them, the government has said.

No letters have yet been sent because the Digital Economy Act, which deals with illegal file-sharing, is on hold while the government waits for the European parliament to approve changes to it.

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