Science, Tech & Environment

The French get tough on illegal downloading


(Image: Brian Lane Winfield Moore, Creative Commons)

Pushed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the law proposes that, for illegal downloaders, after three violations, they will be banned from the Internet for a year. Some argue that this would violate our fundamental human rights. That's right, the Internet as a fundamental human right.

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On "The Takeaway," Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, sorts out the details of the proposed law and how far it will go in deterring illegal activity online.

Vaidhyanathan: "It means basically, there'll be three strikes you're out -- if an internet service provider, like the company that provides your high-speed internet at home -- senses that you have downloaded or uploaded illegal files, the first step is a warning letter, the second step is something more than a warning letter -- it's really unclear exactly -- the third step is they cancel your account."

Vaidhyanathan is doubtful about the impact of the law: "All of these laws and technologies that have been rolled out in the last ten years to try to limit this sort of behavior has been the sort of thing that's become annoying to casual users of the Internet who aren't the big problem. But the people who care deeply about downloading ... an entire season of 'Lost' are going to figure out the two, three steps they need to be able to do it without any interference."

He thinks there are other ways to get around illegal downloading: "iTunes competes with free music and it does so very successfully by providing a reasonably priced, dependable service that's easy to use, and puts very low limitations on users."

"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.