Hadopi: What SOPA looks like from the Eiffel Tower

Digital sovereignty

Last week, the US looked a lot more like France than it usually does, thanks to the uproar caused by SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). I probably don’t need to remind anyone reading this that the internet was flooded with the protesting voices of companies like Wikipedia, Google, Reddit and more against the would-be anti-piracy law. San Francisco even saw famous figures like MC Hammer and investor Ron Conway turning up to fight the cause.

Meanwhile back at the ranch in France…

Even though the Sopa bill was quickly shelved, it was hard to ignore what was going on – especially in France where the country’s similar (but not identical) “Hadopi” anti-piracy law has been also sparked a ton of controversy (and is even playing a minor role in the upcoming Presidential election, see below). But in comparison to what happened in the US last week, it may seem as though the French have hardly taken a stance to standup for internet freedom in their own country. Certain articles even went as far as to criticizing the French for having a “softer” reaction to their own anti-piracy law than to the American equivalent. That doesn’t seem right for the country that has practically perfected the art of protesting.

(“Yesternet,”a humorous parody of The Beatle’s “Yesterday” by France’s geeky equivalent of Weird Al Yankovic, JCFrog)
But when we start to think about the French equivalents of Google and Wikipedia that could voice their dislike for the French anti-piracy law in a similar fashion, the options suddenly seem a bit limited. Shutting down Meetic and Vente-Privée would probably cause more comedy than uproar. Ah, but then there is Free Mobile. And come to think of it Free’s Xavier Niel did actually take a stance against Hadopi, calling it bad and crazy. But could Free really afford to be the only one to go for the activist blackout strategy? Hmmm…

Star Wars Hadopi, the trilogy.

Many have argued that Hadopi is actually not as extreme as Sopa and that it isn’t really possible to compare the two (maybe if we combine Hadopi and Loppsi 2, which concerns everything from internet identity theft to reselling tickets online). Hadopi, which was initially born as a “three strikes” law for illegal downloading in 2009, has it’s roots in defending protected works and cannot actually shut down any sites like Sopa – according to an interview with Wikimedia’s Chrisophe Henner. The latest edition, known as Hadopi 3, went after streaming and direct downloading (for anyone who understands French, you’ll want to read this hilarious and very accurate summary by French blogger Korben). Still, Hadopi (the so-called pirate police who ironically was accused of having a pirated logo) may deal with the subject of net neutrality but doesn’t go anywhere as close to censorship as Sopa does.
PS: Here’s a look at what the Hadopi website looked like for the last few days, thanks to Anonymous (but it is back up and running today).

Anti-piracy, a good topic for a future President.

And France, in case you’ve forgotten, is also preparing for an upcoming presidential election this year – and Sarkozy’s likely opponent, François Hollande (Parti Socialiste) didn’t waste any time last week to quickly state that he would replace Hadopi if elected president. With what, you ask? With something that would provide more legal offers for internet users. (Wait, isn’t that what Hadopi Labs were all about? Anyway…) Hollande went on to confirm yesterday that Hadopi would indeed be replaced if he were to be elected (see below)…but has been criticized for his inability to give any concrete alternatives.

More speed bumps: NOT the answer to speeding.

Outside of France, European Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes has called Sopa a piece of harmful legislation. Despite the fact that her opinion doesn’t really impact US legislation, it is nice to see international politicians speaking out against it regardless. As for France, Hadopi may not be Sopa (yet) but it will be interesting to see how it develops especially as we approach elections (though the issue probably won’t really take center stage).