The French Constitutional Court Wednesday struck down the provisions of the HADOPI “graduated sanction” law that would have required Internet service providers to cut off subscribers access (while continuing to take their payments) after repeat warnings of copyright infringement.
The Court’s ruling recognizes the importance of Internet access and the necessity of due process — before access is cut off:
12. Whereas under Article 11 of the Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely, except to respond to the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law” that in the current state of communications and given the widespread development of communication services to the public online and the importance of these services for participation in democratic life and to the expression of ideas and opinions, this right includes freedom to access these [Internet] services;
See more at La Quadrature du Net.
Although French legislators say they will revise the law to leave its graduated warnings, the stripping of its automatic termination provisions is an important recognition that copyright cannot trump democratic communication.
UPDATE: While preparing for my SouthEast LinuxFest talk, it occurred to me that this is a good example of the power of generative demonstration: The hundreds of thousands of users participating in democratic communications via the Internet are all part of the wave that helped the Constitutional Court to see the Internet as a critical medium for speech and its access as a core human right. Five years ago, this decision would be unlikely, five years from now, it will seem inevitable.