Hadopi, the Paris-based agency in charge of policing illegal downloads, has cleared its final legal hurdle. The agency will begin sending 10,000 emails and 3,000 registered letters out daily to people suspected of illegal downloading from September onwards. US experiments show that 50% of miscreants cease illegal downloads once they’ve received a first, politely worded email. Individuals are monitored for six months before another email goes out, this time harshly worded. France is the most aggressive country in the world when it comes to pursuing internet piracy because of its strong cultural lobby.

As in the UK and elsewhere, telcos have insisted clamping down on internet use is an invasion of privacy. They say innocent families could have their vital internet connections cut off because of a few teenage miscreants. Finland has just made internet access a basic human right. It’s estimated that 1,000 computers a day could have their broadband connections cut off. Stars including Catherine Deneuve have campaigned against the Hadopi law. The argument runs these are entertainment dinosaurs defending an outdated business model; their time would be better spent coming up with new ways of making money.

Antoine Virenque, head of French distributors’ association FNDF, says he’s spoken to parents who would be appalled if children just went in and stole DVDs, yet turn a blind eye to them pirating music and films. Virenque says there needs to be an unspoken compact between the public that illegal downloading is immoral just as everybody has accepted the smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

Spain’s film industry has been ruined by piracy. One Spanish producer told me that he spotted his own film being sold as a DVD on the street when he was en route to its red carpet premiere.

International Chamber of Commerce has predicted that 1.2 million people could lose their jobs because of internet piracy by 2015. In 2008 film, TV and music lost combined revenue of €10 billion and job losses of more than 185,000 due to piracy, ICC said in March.

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