Hadopi Navy Goes to War on “Pirates”

On the high seas of the Internet piracy is rife but France has launched the Hadopi navy to seek redress and, its admirals claim, 100,000 e-mail warheads, sorry warnings, have crossed the bows of swashbuckling pirate offenders since October 2010.

Numerama website is hotly opposed to Hadopi

In an article in Le Monde on December 18, Eric Walter, general – secretary of Hadopi , said that “a total of 100,000 emails were sent out in the two months since the organisation began its work on October 2”. These he said were directed at “unscrupulous Internet users” who illegally download copyrighted music or films. The government agency Hadopi (Haute autorité pour la diffusion des œuvres et la protection des droits sur internet) was created in 2009 to tackle online piracy in what journalist Pierre Haski describes as “probably the most ambitious attempt, worldwide, to fight it”. However Haski co-founder of the French leftwing news website Rue89.com, believes the French are treating its efforts “with derision rather than fear”.

That may be foolish.

The law that established Hadopi provides that “pirates” found guilty face a €1,500 fine, suspension of their internet connection for up to a year, and blacklisting with ISPs or internet service providers.

Haski points out that Hadopi has generated intense debate in French society with views split on generational rather than traditional left-right lines. “Older Socialist artists support the regressive law in the name of intellectual property rights (IPR), while younger left-leaning creators oppose it in favour of new economic models in a free environment,” he wrote in the London-based Guardian recently.

Pierre Haski, founder of Rue89 website, warns Hadopi is fighting an outdated war

France is thought to lead the world in the illegal accessing of film and music content on the Internet. Supported by his singer wife, Carla Bruni the controversial anti-piracy law is a hot favourite of President Nicolas Sarkozy who is promising a nuclear-equipped version of the Hadopi navy if the existing conventional warheads don’t work.

However despite the barrage of artillery fire laid down by the new agency, the website Numerama, which actively opposes Hadopi , says the number of warnings sent out as claimed in media reports is “false.”

According to a report on the arretsurimages.net website, confronted by the figures Alexandre Archambault, head of legal services at the large French ISP “Free” quipped on his Twitter account : “Error in the decimal point. Or is it that Free subscribers are more virtuous than everyone else?”

Indeed Numerama believes the Hadopi navy is focused on laying down a thick black smokescreen rather than actively engaging in serious exchanges of fire with the pirates. Numerama claims: “The Hadopi statement does not actually talk about emails ‘sent’ to Internet users. Rather the agency says ‘since the implementation of the campaign in early October, we have sent 100,000 requests for identification to ISPs’. The identification requests — requiring the name and address of users — are sent by Hadopi to Internet access providers as a follow-up to detection of “improper” use at an IP address.”

“Specifically”, says Numerama, “Hadopi sends a daily list of IP addresses to ISPs which they must then return showing the names, e-mail and other personal information about subscribers (…). It is only once this list has been received that the agency decides whether or not to send an advisory email warning about alleged piracy activity, to the identified subscriber(s) and at least for now, this not been done either automatically or en masse. “

“Indeed”, Numerama adds, “although no one has precise data, it appears that Hadopi does not send a warning (or a ‘recommendation’, as it is officially termed ) to all Internet identified users mainly because of concerns about errors that may have crept in on the lists obtained, as was revealed in a separate report by the PCINpact website, but perhaps also because the agency fears being overwhelmed. (PCINpact says information from operators in response to identification requests shows sometimes disturbing bugs as some addresses correspond to something other than a subscriber’s direct Internet access. These are for instance the addresses attached to hosting servers, such as those provided by OVH, Dedibox, Orange or SFR”.)

In a November 2010 interview with Numerama, Hadopi president Mireille Imbert-Quaretta acknowledged that if “for each recommendation sent,” the recipient requested more information or requested details about what work he had illegally downloaded, “this will inevitably impact on the volume of recommendations we can make.” Translated, says Numerama this means: if too many people ask for explanations, the dozen or so employees at Hadopi will soon be overwhelmed.

How many emails were actually sent then? Well says Numerama according to PCINpact, somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000.

Indeed in a related article — “Thank you Hadopi: MegaUpload booming in France since Hadopi 2” Numerama reports that in November 2010 alone MegaUpload, a HK-based online storage and file delivery service, attracted no less than 7.4 million French Internet users keen to up and download files.

The French Left has attacked the Hadopi procedure as draconian and impinging on civil liberties. It is also seen as ineffective and out of date. The law targets peer-to-peer sites, but not streaming and direct downloading. Thus Hadopi, staffed by worthy but perhaps not too web-savvy, civil servants, may be about to discover that the Internet resembles more the worst Hollywood-style Wild West than any conventional band of pirates on the high seas.

Internet pirates are now helping bolshie users by spreading highly technical encryption keys and similar methods around while there are other reports suggesting business in VPN private networks and similar ways of hiding an IP address, are booming.

French police officers for their part are concerned that in driving “pirates” underground the job of law-enforcement in dealing with more serious crimes such as paedophilia and money laundering will be immensely more complicated.

France may be a “leading piracy nation” but official efforts to shed this ignominious title may only succeed in breeding ever-more sophisticated generations of pirates. The admirals may want to reconsider their weaponry.

Story: Ken Pottinger

Other dead drop sites around France include:
Rue de Picpus Paris
Ile de la Cite, Paris
Rue de la Fonderie, Limoges
Place du Capitole, TOULOUSE
8 Rue des Thermophiles, PARIS
Jardin du Carrousel, Paris Ile-de-France

The full world list is here

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