PARIS: A new initiative from French law enforcers aimed at tackling illegal filesharing could result in thousands of people losing their right to use the web.
The Hadopi police, which is financed at a cost of around €2 million ($2.7m, £1.74m) a year by a group of trade associations and reports to the French Minister of Culture, began monitoring certain websites this month following the passage of a new antipiracy law.
In all, the organisation expects to receive the IP addresses of 125,000 web users a day as part of the initiative.
Internet piracy currently costs France's music industry €700 million ($978 m, £611) a year, according to the SCPP, a trade association.
The initiative sees sites such as eMule and BitTorrent accessed on behalf of Hadopi, with
anyone suspected of illegally downloading videos or music being sent a warning email from their ISPs, reminding them of their legal responsibility for any downloads on their computer.
Should an internet user be found to be breaking the law again with a six month period, offenders receive a registered letter warning them to stop any illegal downloading.
A third offence is likely to result in legal proceedings and an internet "blackout" - the loss of the right to online connection for a year.
Marc Guez, SCCP general manager, said: "Up until now people have been doing whatever they wanted on the Internet ... this had to stop somehow."
Research by SNEP, France's biggest music trade association, suggests that 70% of people will stop downloading illegally if they receive an official warning.
But changing French internet behaviour is proving challenging.
Rather than paying up, some consumers used to accessing pirated music and movies online are looking for alternative ways of continuing to download as before.
Advice is also at hand from websites such as "Avoiding Hadopi for Dummies", which includes suggestions such as using remote computers outside France for downloading music and movies.
A group of 40 lawyers calling themselves SOS-Hadopi also joined forces last month to provide legal support for those accused of internet piracy.
"It's going to be tough for this agency to keep up with the fast-evolving nature of Internet piracy," French intellectual property lawyer Anne Pigeon-Bormans added.
Data sourced from The Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff