France convicts 'pirate' despite confession
Fri, 14 Sep 2012 11:38a.m.
By 3 News online staff
A French court has convicted its first person guilty of breaking its anti-piracy three-strikes law, even though he didn't do it.
Alain Provost, who lives in a rural area in the east of the country, has been ordered to pay a €150 fine for downloading songs by pop singer Rihanna.
Hadopi, the French government agency formed to prosecute suspected internet pirates, say Provost ignored three warnings sent to him.
But Provost told the court he was "totally incapable of downloading anything", and after receiving the second warning had cancelled his internet service to prevent a third.
He says he sent Hadopi a letter explaining what had happened – his ex-wife had downloaded the songs before their divorce was finalised – and got no response. Hadopi had emailed him back, but having no internet, he didn't receive them.
Hadopi then summoned him to Paris, but he couldn't afford to go. Instead, he went to his local police station and explained what had happened.
"I gave a statement saying that I had not, did not install this download site, nor download these two songs," says Prevost.
"They’re two Rihanna tracks. I can’t tell you the titles – I don’t know anything. It was my wife who did it, and I’m going through a divorce."
The police told him it wasn't anything serious, and arranged for his computer to be cleaned by a local IT firm. Several months later, he found himself in court, charged with internet piracy offences, after they found more illegally downloaded Rihanna songs and a program called uTorrent, used to download BitTorrent files.
During the hearing, Prevost's ex-wife testified under oath that she was actually the one that had downloaded the Rihanna songs, not Prevost.
But as the internet was in his Prevost's name, he was the one charged and convicted.
"I think they wanted to make an example of me," says Prevost.
He thought by cooperating with the authorities, he would be let off with a warning, but this was not to be. Because he had no criminal record however, the original fine of €300 was reduced to €150.
"This is pure harassment and intimidation of this poor chap who doesn't even know what happened to him, and shows the absurdity of the whole scheme," digital rights campaigner Jeremie Zimmerman told tech site Ars Technica.
"Actually, Hadopi cases are completely empty of any evidence, with only IP addresses collected by private companies that no judge could ever accept as valid."
Some have suggested if Provost was a regular downloader of pirated content, he would have gotten away with it by anonymising his internet connection.
"In essence, he is being fined for not being a large-scale, tech-savvy downloader," Joe McNamee of European Digital Rights told Ars Technica.
"The penalties imposed by Hadopi are almost designed to be as disproportionate and unfair as possible."
No one has yet been convicted under New Zealand's equivalent law, known as the 'Skynet law'. Three alleged pirates are due to face the Copyright Tribunal soon.
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17/09/2012 2:03:22 p.m.
Just have a drive around and look for un-encrypted WiFi stations on your local street, there are over 20 on mine. Those guys a dumb as!
Or go to an internet cafe and do it there. I do it all the time, thank you god! (does not exist!)
You cant control the free flow of binary over telephone lines!
15/09/2012 4:42:56 p.m.
and so all thoes free wireless internet connections that city councils have, will they be charged for people downloading illegal material? its in their name...
14/09/2012 2:13:41 p.m.
So what do we have?Someone who was rsponsible for the account prosecuted for that account when it downloaded illegally, and a sob story.If the wife has given a confession, let her ex pass the 150 Euro on to her in their divorce settlement.As for hiding your IP address, that doesn't work quite as people think it does. Its like the so-called tracing calls, where people claim that if you hang up in 60 seconds your call can't be traced, when infact your call is traced even before your connected - this is how your toll provider knows and charges you for tolls. In the same way, your ISP provides access, and even if you change your IP that is visable, your ISP still has it traced, and monitor it for data volume so they know how much to charge for the various data plans.What it says, take responsibility for your internet connection.
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