• France Tracks Down 18 Million File-Sharers

    Starting October last year French Internet users have been receiving letters as part of the three-strikes system built-in to the controversial Hadopi anti-piracy legislation. This week the agency responsible for the warnings gave out details on the scope of the operation. In the last 9 months 18 Million file-sharers were tracked, but due to limited capacity ‘only’ 470,000 warnings were sent out to first-time offenders.

    Under France’s new Hadopi law, alleged copyright infringers will be hunted down systematically with the ultimate goal of decreasing piracy. Alleged offenders are identified by their Internet providers and will be reported to a judge once they have received three warnings.
    The judge will then review the case and hand down any one of a range of penalties, from fines through to disconnecting the Internet connection of the infringer.

    This week the Hadopi office for the first time released official data on the massive anti-piracy effort. The scope of the operation is mind-boggling, but whether it will result in the desired outcome is yet to be seen.
    Despite millions of file-sharers being tracked, France has yet to witness its first disconnection.
    The Hadopi agency revealed that since October last year the IP-addresses of 18 Million file-sharers were reported by their ‘hacked‘ tracking partner Trident Media Guard. Of this massive list a randomly selected sample of one million IP-addresses was sent to the Internet providers to obtain further information on the subscribers, and 900,000 identities were returned.

    This mass discovery process resulted in 470,000 first warning emails, which equals little over 50,000 per month. The number of people who received a second warning is currently stuck at 20,000 and only 10 Internet subscribers received a third warning.
    According to the Hadopi agency these 10 cases are currently being investigated by a judge. These alleged offenders risk a fine of 1500 euros and could lose their Internet connection temporarily. Thus far, however, no French file-sharers have been disconnected.
    As the results of France’s controversial three-strikes anti-piracy law are revealed, many people doubt whether the costs involved with the massive operation are justified.

    Last month a report from the UN’s Human Rights Council labeled Internet access a human right, arguing that Hadopi is a disproportionate law that should be repealed. This assessment was supported by Reporters Without Borders recently.
    “Aside from its practical omissions and shortcomings, the Hadopi law directly violates the principles of the defence of free expression by making it possible to disconnect people from the Internet. Its adoption was one of Reporters Without Borders’ reasons for adding France to the list of ‘countries under surveillance’ in its latest ‘Enemies of the Internet’ report,” the organization writes.

    In addition to the human rights issues it is also highly questionable how significant the claimed deterrent effect of the disconnection threat is.
    A recent survey by ZDNet.fr found that just 4% of file-sharers polled said they have stopped sourcing music from illegal services for fear of detection. Instead, many BitTorrent users simply turn to proxies and VPNs to conceal their identities.

    Thus far, however, the French Government is determined to continue its war against piracy. Effective or not, the Hadopi office will continue to track down millions of French file-sharers each month in the hope that the tide turns in their favor.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. bobbintb's Avatar
      bobbintb -
      Under France’s new Hadopi law, alleged copyright infringers will be hunted down systematically with the ultimate goal of decreasing piracy making infringers better at hiding their infringement.
    1. AlexJ's Avatar
      AlexJ -
      As a French citizen, i have only met 1 person who has recived an email, this law is completly useless because it does not apply to DLL sites like Megaupload and Rapidshare, that even before Hadopi, were more popular than torrents.
    1. darkmawl's Avatar
      darkmawl -
      I just hate the fact that these warning can be given without a proper trail or something. I assume there is a way to contest it though? However the problem with such a system seems that a simple thing like "innocent until proven guilty" does not apply. Your guilty, just because someone used your digital road to do something illigal. I mean sure most of them downloaded it themselves and deserve the warning (although I disagree with this law!), but it still seems to be a step back into the wrong direction. I am sure though that such a law would not be applied in my country, unless maybe the EU forces it. First of all the ISP here would not simply roll on there back or bend over for such a thing. Especially not the ISP I am costumer off. They have been fighting against such rules and other crazy stuff (like storing all the data for x amount of months/years). In fact my goverment has changed some laws recently (rightly so as the current laws where outdated and because of a hole in the law made it legal to download in some cases), but state they will not go after individual downloaders, but after the source.
    1. TheFoX's Avatar
      TheFoX -
      I agree with darkmawl. These days, the law needs to be able to identify the actual perpetrator, and not a trail leading to that person. Modern speed cameras not only catch the vehicle speeding, but also capture the face of the driver in the image. The reason is that a lot of drivers used to be able to escape fines and points by denying that they were driving their vehicle, and claiming that they didn't know who was driving it at the time of the alleged offense. If you include an image of the driver at the time, there is no get out clause for those caught. It is the same with IP tracking. Just because you can follow that IP all the way to a property, doesn't mean that the subscriber is the one conducting the illegal download. It could be any one of the household, or if they have WiFi enabled, someone close by even, who is not connected to the household. In any situation like this, the law needs to revisit how they would penalise someone based on evidence that is less than perfect. If this was a murder trial, the case would need to be thrown out, yet because the outcome is mere disconnection from the internet, the industry is pushing for more punishment. This needs to be addressed...
    1. proforma's Avatar
      proforma -
      It's not hard to generate false evidence here. Should you own a tracker you could simply fake IPs some and insert them in the cloud. Afaik it's even possible to act under an IP you don't have (IP-Spoofing). Packets won't be delivered correctly, but the IP shows in logs and in BT clouds.