France’s $16M Anti-Piracy Agency Has Sent Two Million Warnings, But Only Fined Two People

Anti-piracy agency Hadopi just broke a record. In less than three years, it has sent more than 2 million warning emails for copyright infringement. Warning emails are just the first strike in the “three strike” scheme. After that, it sends you registered snail mail, and finally it takes you to court. Yet, only four people were convicted. The most surprising aspect is that the agency is still going strong despite the change of government in 2012.

As a reminder, the Hadopi pays a private company to spy on BitTorrent activity regarding popular music, TV shows or French movies. Then, ISPs are supposed to comply with the Hadopi to give the real identity of the person behind an IP address. Offenders don’t receive a warning because they downloaded a movie, but because they failed to put proper security on their Internet connection. It’s a lot more pernicious.

While the Hadopi originally wanted to automate the third step and fine everyone who was caught three times, this part of the bill didn’t pass. A court has to decide whether an offender is guilty or not.

With a budget of $16M for 2012 alone, the agency managed to fine two persons for a grand total of $1,000.

Only 10 percent of the offenders received registered mail (200,000 people). 710 people are supposed to be tried but there aren’t enough resources to bring all of them to court. So far, only four had to defend themselves in front of a court — less than 0.000002 percent of those who received the first warning. The result isn’t a glorious victory for the government, the results of the cases including a discharge, an “exempt from penalty”, a $200 fine (€150) and an $800 fine (€600) with 15 days of Internet blackout.

In other words, it’s a failure. With a budget of $16 million (€12 million) for 2012 alone, the agency managed to fine two people for a grand total of $1,000. Some detractors claimed that France created the most expensive newsletter in the world.

Back in 2012, then presidential candidate François Hollande was reluctant to say that the Hadopi would end with his presidency. That was one of the reasons why Aurélie Filipetti was named as the Minister of Culture, because she seemed to get along well with right holders. The government doesn’t want to simply kill the Hadopi and leave a void. It would send out the wrong signals to music and movie companies.

Instead, the government put Pierre Lescure in charge to find an alternative. While his conclusions are now available, the 719-page report has yet to become a law or a new authority.