Frenchmen risk being banned from the Internet

The French have gone and done it! Times Online reports:

Anyone who persists in illicit downloading of music or films will be barred from broadband access under a controversial new law that makes France a pioneer in combating internet piracy.

“There is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone,” President Sarkozy told his Cabinet yesterday as it endorsed the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” scheme that from next January will hit illegal downloaders where it hurts.

This is, as I have argued earlier (last time in January), a really bad idea. Why is banning people from the Internet a bad idea?

The Internet has been promoted and become our most basic communications infrastructure (my focus here is Europe since this is where the the French are).

1. The punishment does not fit the crime: We have changed the way Banks, Post Offices, ticket sales, hotel booking, insurance (etc, etc) work and banning someone from the Internet will be tantamount to branding a symbol of guilt onto the person. Not to mention the increased costs involved in time and money. Indeed why should copyright violation prevent me from online banking?

2. Group punishment: If an Internet connection is involved in copyright violation this does not mean that all those dependent upon that connection should be punished. The actual violator may be underage or the network may be open to others.

3. Privatizing the law: The ability to punish copyright violators should not be delegated to private bodies. Internet providers are not equipped to mete out legal punishments.

Earlier, when arguing against proposals such as these I wrote:

The proposals seen above are simplistic, naive and dangerous they show a fundamental lack of understanding not only of technology or its role in society but also a lack of understanding of the role of communication in a democratic society. The actions of the politicians proposing such measures show that they are not acting in the interests of the individuals they are there to serve.

Even if the French have chosen to go the other way – I still believe that they are wrong…

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