April 29, 2009 / 7:53 PM / 10 years ago

French parliament debates Internet piracy again

PARIS (Reuters) - French parliamentarians revived debate on a bill to crack down on Internet piracy at the behest of President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday after it had been the subject of an embarrassing defeat for the ruling party.

France’s parliament rejected on April 9 the government-backed bill that proposed disconnecting Internet users if they downloaded music or films illegally, after the ruling UMP party failed to turn out in force to back the law.

Lulled into a false sense of security, UMP deputies were caught by surprise when socialist opposition members turned up to make their votes count at the last minute.

Culture Minister Christine Albanel described the circumstances surrounding that vote as “incredible.”

In a session featuring calls for calm by Bernard Accoyer, speaker of the National Assembly, or lower house, deputies bickered over the way the bill had been handled.

The bill would give users caught illegally downloading files two warnings and, after a third violation, they would be disconnected from the Internet for up to a year.

Debate on the bill will be suspended on Wednesday evening and will restart on Monday.

Opposition politicians and consumer activists have said the law would not work well and could hit the wrong people.

But Sarkozy announced after the initial defeat that he was determined to see it passed and said the law would protect creative diversity.

The music industry, hurt by falling revenues as fans download songs for free, has lobbied the French and other governments strenuously to introduce the law.

Critics argue that hackers could steal other users’ identities to download music and the victims would then have to prove their innocence. Some artists also worry that such a law would pit them against their fans.

Reporting by Emile Picy; Writing by Tamora Vidaillet; editing by Robert Woodward

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