French E-commerce law tested in constitutional court

By EDRi · June 2, 2004

EDRI-member IRIS and the French Human Rights League (LDH) have sent a brief to the French Constitutional council regarding the unconstitutionality of the French transposition of the E-commerce Directive (Loi pour la confiance dans l’economie numerique or LEN). On 18 May 2004 the French socialist MPs submitted the finalised law to the Constitutional Council, following the public advice from the two organisations.

The parliamentary opposition uses three of the four provisions pointed out by IRIS and LDH: status of email (not defined as private correspondence), privatisation of justice (through notice and take down procedure) and the introduction of different periods of limitation for on-line and off-line content. In the proposed law there is no time bar for offences identified in the press law (defamation, racist speech, holocaust denial, etc.) if they result from an on-line publication, while the statute of limitations is three months if previously published in any other medium.

For this reason, IRIS and LDH decided to complement the analysis of these three provisions with a brief analysing a number of others provisions both organisations find unconstitutional. The status of such briefs in France is not official, but considered a useful instrument to influence the decision of the council.

For example, the two groups criticised the proposal’s broadly worded provisions that would limit the “freedom of online communication” on vague grounds of “national defence, public service necessities, technical constraints” as well as “protecting a young audience,” suggesting that these and other sections of the bill could be abused to chill internet speech.

IRIS and LDH observations (in French, May 2004)

EDRi-gram 2.9 ‘Final vote about French digital economy law’ (05.05.2004)

(Thanks to Meryem Marzouki, EDRI-member IRIS)