Hadopi suggests new anti-piracy measures in France, while file-sharing levels discussed

By | Published on Monday 4 March 2013


A new report by the French government agency set up to combat online piracy, Hadopi, has suggested new measures to combat the distribution of unlicensed content online.

Proposals include web-blocking, and the two hottest piracy-related topics in the music community just now: the downgrading of piracy-enabling sites on search engines and the cutting off of revenue stream to such services, either by freezing PayPal or credit card accounts, or by banning them from embedding ad network widgets on their sites.

Hadopi was set up to administer the three-strikes system for combating illegal file-sharing in France, and has initiated the sending of hundreds of thousands of warning letters to suspected file-sharers, though only a hundred or so cases are thought to have go to the ‘strike three’ stage, where some kind of sanction (most likely bandwidth throttling or net suspension) can theoretically be forced on persistent file-sharers.

But the latest report from Hadopi, published last week, focused on other forms of online piracy, in particular websites that directly provide unlicensed streams or downloads to users. The authority proposes web-blocking as a method to tackle these sites – an anti-piracy system prioritised over three-strikes in some other jurisdictions.

The report proposes putting statutory obligations on sites to install filters – similar to those already operated by YouTube – to help filter out copyright material uploading without permission by users, with the threat of demoting such sites on search engines or getting court ordered web-blocks against services that fail to meet those requirements.

The agency would also like the power to target the finances of sites that persistently infringe copyright, ultimately utilising court orders to stop infringing sites from taking funds via PayPal or credit card, or from benefiting from ad networks. This is an area where the music industry has already been proactive, working with credit card giants to cut off the income streams of those piracy operations that rely on subscriptions or donations from users.

French ministers will now consider the Hadopi report before making any decisions on future priorities regards its anti-piracy initiatives, at the same time as reviewing the ongoing three-strikes system. All the measures on the table are, of course, controversial in some quarters, with some arguing that three-strikes and web-blocking are overly severe and, anyway, don’t work. Others, meanwhile, say that the content industries should be more focused on launching more compelling legit services than on instigating ever more drastic anti-piracy measures.

Elsewhere in piracy news, London-based analytics company Musicmetric has countered a recent report published by the NPD Group in the US that said file-sharing levels were finally in decline. Musicmetric says that while recent research does suggest that the number of people file-sharing is starting to fall in the US, worldwide BitTorrent usage is up. Though that is mainly due to increases in developing markets where the number of legit download and streaming services are currently more limited.

Gregory Mead of Musicmetric owner Semetric, told CMU: “While our data does show a decrease in BitTorrent downloads in the US, it also shows that it is increasing significantly in emerging markets such as Brazil and India and is on track to pass the US in the near future”.

He adds: “The extension of legal downloading services like iTunes and streaming services such as Spotify is having a real positive effect as people have more access to revenue-generating outlets. The findings show those emerging markets with growing music piracy issues are ripe for a legal alternative, and represent very exciting opportunities for the global music industry. The key thing is for the industry to find ways of engaging with fans and using data on all online music consumption”.