Word came through the grapevine today that France’s “three strikes” HADOPI law has been struck down by the French Constitutional Council. While this is fantastic news, it’s not exactly surprising–until this point, the constitutionality of the law had remained an open question. What’s more, even if the law had survived the French Constitutional Council’s scrutiny, it most certainly would have attracted the attention of the European Union, who in October of last year, passed an amendment prohibiting member states from implementing three strikes regimes. Luckily, the French Constitutional Council sided with the EU Parliament, going so far as to cite the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a founding document of the French Revolution. “…[W]hereas under section nine of the Declaration of 1789, every man is presumed innocent until he has been proven guilty, it follows that in principle the legislature does not establish a presumption of guilt in criminal matters,” the Council wrote in its ruling.
Moreover, the Council asserted that “free access to public communication services online,” is a basic human right and that, “Freedom of expression and communication is so valuable that its exercise is a prerequisite for democracy and one of the guarantees of respect for other rights and freedoms.” Taking issue with the preemptive and disproportionate nature of the response authorized by HADOPI, the Council noted that, “attacks on the exercise of this freedom must be necessary, appropriate and proportionate to the aim pursued.”
Needless to say, this represents a huge victory for Internet users, supporters of civil liberties and opponents of overly aggressive copyright enforcement everywhere. France’s three strikes regime, which had been pointed to as a model by the American content industry, was one of the most extreme copyright enforcement schemes ever passed into law. And while the Sarkozy government might have managed to force the HADOPI law through Parliament, it’s good to know that the French courts are still willing to uphold that nation’s founding principles. Still, as Jérémie Zimmermann from La Quadrature du Net warns, Sarkozy might only be getting started when it comes to pushing the content industry’s agenda. “The next law, LOPPSI, is already on tracks and will be about filtering the content on the Internet,” Zimmerman writes. “Citizens must celebrate this great victory but remain watchful…”