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Reports: France's controversial three-strikes law gets approved; Elton John joins U.K. debate

September 22, 2009 |  4:16 pm


The sharing of music via the Web has become a hot topic this week in Europe. As major pop stars debate proposed legislation in Britain, the French parliament today approved a controversial Internet piracy bill, according to multiple news reports from the country.

The bill, writes 24-hour news service France 24, is "one of the toughest ever drafted in the global fight against the illegal downloading of films, music and computer games." Backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the anti-piracy legislation could ultimately lead to the suspension of a user's Internet account.

It has faced toughed opposition in France, including an anti-constitutional charge last spring from the Socialist party, which promised, according to this Reuters report, to mount a second challenge. The party objected to an earlier draft of the bill, which would have created a separate entity with the power to sever a user's Internet access. The approved draft today would put that control in the hands of a judge, who on the third strike could hand down an Internet ban, a fine or a jail sentence.

Ominously, users would also be held responsible for the actions of third parties who piggyback onto their Web connections and use it to illegally download copyrighted works. France24 writes that citizens could be found guilty of "negligence," and face a month-long suspension of Internet service or a fine of up to 1,500 euros ($2,219).

The news from France comes as more artists are speaking out about proposed anti-piracy legislation in England. The government is currently considering tougher measures on those who share music, including the suspension of one's Internet account.

Elton John added his voice to the debate today.

The pop star lent his support to British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, who is backing the proposed legislation. "I am of the view that the unchecked proliferation of illegal downloading (even on a 'non-commercial' basis) will have a seriously detrimental effect on musicians, and particularly young musicians and those composers who are not performing artists," the singer wrote, according to multiple U.K. outlets.

Meanwhile, a blog launched by singer Lily Allen to spur debate on the issue continues to draw big name responses. Producer Mark Ronson voiced his support of Allen, who has questioned the stance taken by the Freedom Artists Coalition, a not-for-profit lobbying group that aims to educate and protect the rights of artists, and opposes any legislation that suggests the suspension of one's Internet account.

Allen isn't hesitating to post dissenting views. She made live an e-mail signed by rock act the Futureheads, who count themselves as members of the coalition.

Wrote the band, "The Futureheads believe that it would be wrong to directly punish someone for downloading / filesharing -- there are bigger culprits than the individual. There is a whole world of revenue being created through ads etc on some of these sites.

"When all’s said and done," the band continued, "new technology is coming along every day, and maybe filesharing is just the first stop on a long cyber-galactic bus-ride. Maybe illegal downloading is a moralistic dilemma that music fans should endure?"

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Elton John. Credit: EPA