Final French vote on controversial Digital Economy Law

By EDRi · May 5, 2004

Tomorrow, 6 May 2004, the French national assembly will have the final reading of the controversial digital economy law (Loi sur la confiance dans l’economie numerique, LEN), followed by a final reading in the Senate on 13 May 2004. This will conclude the French transposition process of the E-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) and part of the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (2002/58/EC).

After the French Senate completed its second reading of the draft law on 8 April 2004, an inter-parliamentarian commission proposed a new text on 27 April 2004 to approximate the results of both the National Assembly and the Senate. The Senate and the commission have confirmed most of the very controversial provisions contained in the draft law (see EDRI-gram issue 2.1, 15 January 2004), but suppressed the provision obliging hosting providers to monitor the content of their customers, since this measure is explicitly forbidden by the E-Commerce Directive.

It is likely that the French socialist MPs will submit the final law to the Constitutional Council, following a joint request by EDRI member IRIS and the French Human Rights League (LDH) in an open letter sent on 23 April to the parliamentarian opposition. IRIS and LDH organised a press conference on 3 May 2004, where they outlined their objections against 4 specific provisions of the draft. They have also provided French socialist MPs with a detailed brief that can be used in the case for the Constitutional Council.

The 4 provisions that IRIS and LDH find unconstitutional are:

# the definition of e-mail doesn’t explicitly mention that it is private correspondence (article 1 of the draft law).
# freedom of expression and communication on the internet are limited ‘for the sake of audio-visual production’ (article 1).
# the introduction of a notice and take down procedure that turns providers into private judges (article 2bis).
# the introduction of different periods of limitation for on-line and off-line content. 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.

Major press organisations, specially for on-line press like GESTE, as well as civil liberties organisations like RSF and IRIS have strongly protested against the last provision, introduced by the Senate in their second reading. After IRIS made a counter proposal on this issue, Rene Tregouet, the French senator who introduced the time bar, declared to Le Monde that this counter proposal from the NGOs is ‘better than his own’.

The French socialists announced today (5 May) that they will seriously object against these 4 provisions at the National Assembly and that they will decide next week to submit the law to the Constitutional Council or not. The French legislative procedure is such that only the President of the Republic, the Prime minister, the President of one of the parliamentarian assemblies, or a group of 60 MPs are allowed to submit a law to the Constitutional Council.

IRIS and LDH joint letter to socialist MPs (27.04.2004)

Reuters press wire on socialists MP decision (05.05.2004)

On statutes of limitation for publication offences RSF (14.04.2004): IRIS (20.04.2004): GESTE (04.05.2004):

Article by Le Monde (05.05.2004),1-0@2-3236,36-363556,0.html

IRIS full dossier on the LEN

(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki, IRIS)