Nancy Tartaglione examines the implications of France’s controversial Internet and Creation Law.

A law to create a graduated response system to the illegal downloading of copyrighted material is proving a hot topic for the French industry. While the sort of DVD piracy that sees films hawked on the street even before their local release does exist in France, it in no way matches those of some other big European territories.

Internet piracy is another matter: last August, France’s anti-piracy association, Alpa, reported the illegal downloading of films had reached 450,000 per day. Alpa chief Frederic Delacroix says current figures are about equivalent — if not higher.

The Creation and Internet Law is a three-strikes measure whereby individuals would receive two written warnings regarding their illegal activity and, if caught a third time, would lose their internet access for up to a year.

The law was passed in May, with support from president Nicolas Sarkozy along with internet service providers and much of the artistic community. But France’s top legislative court, the Constitutional Council, decreed the power to cut off internet access breached France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man, and that only a judge should be allowed to eliminate a violator’s internet rights.

Several hundred matters of piracy are followed up each year, Delacroix explains, one of the latest being the SnowTigers sting. The 250,000-member portal dealt in pirated films, music and software, and in June saw 21 of its servers seized. Ten people were arrested and they face up to five years in prison.

While prison terms are meted out as probationary, fines have been levied in the past: a Paris court recently sentenced six people, including three employees of TF1, to a one-month suspended jail sentence for illegally broadcasting Patrice Leconte’s 2006 hit Les Bronzés 3: Amis Pour La Vie on the internet. The pirates were ordered to pay $21,000 (€15,000) to StudioCanal, publisher of the DVD.

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In figures

Fine paid by six people for illegally broadcasting Les Bronzés 3: Amis Pour La Vie online in France

of Italians have watched a film illegally

Estimated annual cost of piracy to the Spanish industry

Estimated annual cost of piracy to the Italian industry

Estimated annual cost of piracy to the German industry

The percentage German admissions could increase if piracy were eradicated

Fine handed out to owners of The Pirate Bay website