France will cut funding to its piracy police

France’s new culture minister is not yet promising to disband the country’s internet piracy enforcement agency, Hadopi. But she already is already planning to cut its budget and to dissuade it from kicking people off the internet.

Aurélie Filippetti has commissioned former Canal+ pay-TV CEO Pierre Lescure to lead a wide-ranging and overdue review to update Act II of France’s so-called “cultural exception” – a set of rules for protecting Francophone culture – for the digital age, including the role of Hadopi.

Geeks are reading indications by the new Francois Hollande government as suggesting an axe for the agency, which was formed in October 2012 mandated by government in 2009 to send warning letters to ISP subscribers deemed to by rightsholders to be downloading content without authorisation.

Filipetti, in an interview with La Nouvel Observateur, only goes as far as promising to underfund Hadopi:

“I do not know what will become of this institution, but one thing is clear: Hadopi has not fulfilled its mission of developing legal content offerings.

“In financial terms, €12 million a year and 60 officers, it’s expensive to send a million e-mails.

“Finally, the suspension of internet access seems a disproportionate sanction against the goal. But all this will be considered by the Lescure mission.

“Meanwhile, as part of budgetary efforts, I will ask that Hadopi’s costs are greatly reduced for 2012. I prefer to cut funding for things whose utility is not proven. I will announce in September the details of these budget decisions.

“I cannot decide on the findings of a mission that just started. All stakeholders will be met and will share their views. It is essential to go beyond the framework of Hadopi and consider all mechanisms to adapt to the digital age.”

Filipetti’s views put her in line with Europe’s digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is trying to smoothe content licensing regimes to create more legal digital content offerings across the continent and who recently urged French citizens to submit to Lescure’s consultation:

“Combating piracy is not done only by coercive measures. You are all, in fact, aware that I am not a fan of measures that punish individuals or families by cutting off internet access.

“The best way to combat piracy is to encourage the legal supply to satisfy the legitimate expectations of users. . So we must be very ambitious when it comes to creating a regulatory framework that promotes the development of legal offers online.”

Beside Kroes’ efforts, France’s cultural exception update is likely to reduce VAT on digital goods in line with the favourable rates applied to physical cultural products.

France’s Hadopi public agency, created to administer sending of warnings to alleged freeloaders, sent 755,015 first warnings to ISP subscribers in its first 14 months of operation.

Lescure’s review mimics a 2011 report that recommended updating the UK’s intellectual property laws for the digital age.