In 10 Years Of Existence, The Long-Running French Farce Known As Hadopi Has Imposed Just €87,000 In Fines, But Cost Taxpayers €82 Million

from the shut-it-down dept

The French anti-piracy framework known as Hadopi began as tragedy and soon turned into farce. It was tragic that so much energy was wasted on putting together a system that was designed to throw ordinary users off the Internet — the infamous “three strikes and you’re out” approach — rather than encouraging better legal offerings. Four years after the Hadopi system was created in 2009, it descended into farce when the French government struck down the signature three strikes punishment because it had failed to bring the promised benefits to the copyright world. Indeed, Hadopi had failed to do anything much: its first and only suspension was suspended, and a detailed study of the three strikes approach showed it was a failure from just about every viewpoint. Nonetheless, Hadopi has staggered on, sending out its largely ignored warnings to people for allegedly downloading unauthorized copies of material, and imposing a few fines on those unlucky enough to get caught repeatedly.

As TorrentFreak reports, Hadopi has published its annual report, which contains some fascinating details of what exactly it has achieved during the ten years of its existence. In 2019, the copyright industry referred 9 million cases to Hadopi for further investigation, down from 14 million the year before. However, referral does not mean a warning was necessarily sent. In fact, since 2010, Hadopi has only sent out 12.7 million warnings in total, which means that most people accused of piracy don’t even see a warning.

Those figures are a little abstract; what’s important is how effective Hadopi has been, and whether the entire project has been worth all the time and money it has consumed. Figures put together by Next INpact, quoted by TorrentFreak, indicate that during the decade of its existence, Hadopi has imposed the grand sum of €87,000 in fines, but cost French taxpayers nearly a thousand times more — €82 million. Against that background of staggering inefficiency and inefficacy, the following words in the introduction to Hadopi’s annual report (pdf), written by the organization’s president, Denis Rapone, ring rather hollow:

Hadopi remains, ten years later and despite the pitfalls in its path in the past, the major player in the protection of copyright, so that creation can flourish unhindered.

Creation could have flourished rather more had those €82 million been spent supporting struggling artists directly, rather than wasting them on the bureaucrats running this pointless joke of an organization. Time to bring the curtain down on the Hadopi farce for good.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Comments on “In 10 Years Of Existence, The Long-Running French Farce Known As Hadopi Has Imposed Just €87,000 In Fines, But Cost Taxpayers €82 Million”

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39 Comments
David says:

That's not a useful metric

The point of Hadopi is not to generate revenue but to deter from copyright violations.

Your comparison of cost to revenue numbers would like judging the success of the judicial system by looking at revenue from prison labor compared to the cost of running a judicial system in the first place.

The question of "is it worth it" is trickier to answer. I lean towards "no", but the reasons are a lot more complex.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: That's not a useful metric

"The point of Hadopi is not to generate revenue but to deter from copyright violations"

OK, so let’s see those figures. Until we see them, we have to assume that the fact that most people accused of copyright infringement haven’t even seen a warning is not much of a deterrent, and that any "encouragement" has been far outweighed by the massive rise in availability of legal streaming services in the lifespan of this agency.

What kind of a deterrent is "we might accuse you of something, but probably won’t tell you about it, and even if we do tell you we probably won’t fine you"?

"Your comparison of cost to revenue numbers would like judging the success of the judicial system by looking at revenue from prison labor compared to the cost of running a judicial system in the first place."

No, it’s really not. In your example, people have been tried and convicted of crimes. Here, most people don’t even know they’ve been accused, and most of the general public probably don’t even know of Hadopi’s existence, let alone given something that would actually deter them.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

In your example, people have been tried and convicted of crimes

A fairer comparison in that case would be to look at HADOPI’s conviction rates. In that aspect, only one alleged filesharer made it to the third strike, and it was made known to the court that the alleged filesharer taken to task wasn’t even the actual infringer, but his wife was. HADOPI continued to enforce the fines, despite knowing full well the person being fined wasn’t responsible – until a higher court nullified the punishment.

So a more honest comparison between HADOPI and the judicial system would indicate that HADOPI cost 82 million in taxpayer money to do… absolutely sweet fuck all.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

"So a more honest comparison between HADOPI and the judicial system would indicate that HADOPI cost 82 million in taxpayer money to do… absolutely sweet fuck all."

I’d argue that it was worse than doing nothing. Hadopi allowed the incumbent industries to continue pretending that their profits would magically go up if only piracy was stopped, when their real problem was that they weren’t offering legal digital options that customers were willing to pay for.

Piracy has gone down in recent years because the second issue was addressed, but this had to largely come from foreign third parties rather than innovation within French industry. Given that, Hadopi doing nothing could actually have been more beneficial in the long run.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That's not a useful metric

"The point of Hadopi is not to generate revenue but to deter from copyright violations."

Why are tax payers being held financially responsible for assuring the profitability of business that profits from licensing media content? I am not an MBA, but Isn’t that a cost of doing business? Is business so lazy these days that the public needs to give the a helping hand? Isn’t that "socialism"? lol, we hate socialism right?

David says:

Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

Why are tax payers being held financially responsible for assuring the profitability of shops that profit from selling food, by paying for the system prosecuting theft?

Why are tax payers being held financially responsible for paying for a system penalizing rape and murder?

It’s a decision of society which kind of behaviors to sanction at the cost of national resources for the sake of making protection of rules benefitting all a common rather private enterprise.

The existence of Hadopi is not justified by its direct profitability. There certainly are enough good reasons to attack it, but this isn’t one.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

"Why are tax payers being held financially responsible for paying for a system penalizing rape and murder?"

False equivalence.

A person allowing another person to make a copy of information which they legally own can’t be compared to murder or rape. But good on you for turning the civil equivalent of jaywalking into the equivalent of taking someone’s life.

Copyright infringement isn’t a crime. It’s a civil misdemeanor. The common denominator of which in just about every other case is that it’s not in most jurisdictions the affair of the taxpayer to foot the bill for it.

"The existence of Hadopi is not justified by its direct profitability. There certainly are enough good reasons to attack it, but this isn’t one."

In fact the fact that the taxpayers are subsidizing a specific industry in legal bills over a civil matter is, indeed, a factor to attack HADOPI over.

Sure, the most damning indictment of Hadopi is that Copyright is a Red Flag Act, nothing else. A protectionist knee-jerk response to an industry which is failing due to simple progress, in much the same manner blacksmiths went out of fashion when the industrial revolution came along. But Hadopi being the equivalent of tax-subsidized civil litigation certainly merits criticism as well.

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Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

You missed the entire argument the article made. Nice job creating your own strawman to attack rather than addressing the point, though.

The point was that Hadopi has done almost nothing to actually help artists and the money that has been spent on it and might be spent on it in the future would actually do a ton of good for said artists if it were spent trying to build up help for them directly rather than punish people randomly based on nothing more than the assumption that they’ve broken the law literally without any evidence to prove they have.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 That's not a useful metric

"Instead of paying for prisons, we should rather give the money to rape victims" would be sort of the equivalent. Sorry, but Hadopi does not sound like it was intended to be a payout system in the first place.

The problem is copyright, not its enforcement. You cannot evaluate the costs of enforcement separate from its value. It just makes no sense.

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Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 That's not a useful metric

No one is separating the evaluation of the costs from the value of the enforcement. The whole point is there was no value. None. Whatsoever.
Also there is no comparison in any actual law put in place to enforce any other law because Hadopi doesn’t enforce Copyright law or any other law for that matter. It literally has nothing to do with enforcing Copyright law because it doesn’t punish people based on if they’ve broken the law or not. It just punishes anyone based on pure hearsay. It does nothing to actually verify if the law was broken.
This is not law enforcement. This is anarchy. Copyright can’t be "the problem" because Copyright isn’t even considered when using this law.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 That's not a useful metric

Actually, you can.

At some point into its enforcement the government threatened to cut HADOPI’s funding – so HADOPI responded by sending out more letters. Now I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds like they weren’t operating efficiently until the thumbscrews started to turn.

When copyright enforcement is driven by the likes of Prenda-style strategies we can, should, and will blame the enforcement side of things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

"…. shops that profit from selling food, by paying for the system prosecuting theft?"

One is a civil matter while the other is criminal, why not compare them as thought they were very similar? Well, because that is not very productive unless your goal is to muddy the waters and make excuses.

"paying for a system penalizing rape and murder"
Again … not even close. I’m sure that some intellectual property wonks, gurus, overlords, whatever you call them would agree that IP infringement should result in the death penalty, but they are insane.

"It’s a decision of society which kind of behaviors to sanction at the cost of national resources for the sake of making protection of rules benefitting all a common rather private enterprise."
Wow, that’s some heavy bullshit right there. Do we sanction police brutality? Does the present police state benefit all citizens? I do not think it does but perhaps you have a unique pov that I have not considered.

" There certainly are enough good reasons to attack it, but this isn’t one."
I think it is a good reason, as all government/industry corruption is bad.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 That's not a useful metric

" There certainly are enough good reasons to attack it, but this isn’t one."
I think it is a good reason, as all government/industry corruption is bad.

Focus! "this" is that the cost of enforcement is higher than the collected penalties. It has nothing to do whatsoever with "all government/industry corruption".

David says:

Re: Re: Re:4 That's not a useful metric

Stop your foaming at the mouth for a moment and understand that criticizing an argument is different from embracing the negative of its conclusion. If I point out the fallacy in a specific argument, that does not mean "wearing blinders". The merits of individual arguments can be individually evaluated.

Not being able to look at them one by one, and shouting general slogans is actually what is tantamount to wearing blinders. Or at least very bad glasses turning everything into a single blur.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 That's not a useful metric

"If I point out the fallacy in a specific argument, that does not mean "wearing blinders"."

The point, David, is that your perceived fallacy still relies on false equivalence.

Copyright is a civil matter – which in just about every jurisdiction I know of has the common denominator of not being covered under criminal law.

HADOPI is a government-enforced subsidy mechanism which levies the fiscal burden of civil litigation on the tax-payer. And does this by creating a court operating under criminal law.

When the tax-payer pays for the prosecution of a thief or murderer it’s a different story altogether.
When the taxpayer pays for supporting a cangaroo court operating against any standard of legal jurisprudens it’s simply not defensible.

You are arguing from the premise that copyright enforcement (civil matter) and murder or rape (penal code, criminal law) are the same. That’s as wrong and dangerous as claiming there’s no difference between the right or left lane while driving a car.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

The consequences of rape and murder are significantly staggering compared to the download of a file. Your attempt to parallel all of the above as "worthy of taxpayer money" is rather disingenuous as it tries to make both offenses equally undesirable.

Hell, if anything, legal issues like actual murder and actual rape fly under the radar precisely because the enforcement on those crimes is very poorly funded. 82 million Euros spent on the wishes of an entertainment industry is a travesty especially when those same industries love to use theft and child abuse as examples for why stronger copyright enforcement needs to exist.

But back to your original statement of:

The point of Hadopi is not to generate revenue but to deter from copyright violations

You sweet summer child. You really think nobody’s in copyright enforcement for the profit, are you?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 That's not a useful metric

"The consequences of rape and murder are significantly staggering compared to the download of a file."

The real issue isn’t the proportional discrepancy. It’s the fact that a civil matter is NOT a criminal matter.

One of the above is prosecuted by the state – and thus paid for by the taxpayer who supports the cost of judge, prosecutor, and jury.

The other is a private matter – and thus court costs and legal bills are all paid for by the plaintiff and the defendant.

THAT is why you can not and must not draw parallels between civil cases, such copyright enforcement, and criminal trials.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: That's not a useful metric

"Why are tax payers being held financially responsible for assuring the profitability of shops that profit from selling food, by paying for the system prosecuting theft?"

Because shoplifting is not the only kind of theft?

"Why are tax payers being held financially responsible for paying for a system penalizing rape and murder?"

Because tax payers don’t want to be raped and murdered?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: That's not a useful metric

"Your comparison of cost to revenue numbers would like judging the success of the judicial system by looking at revenue from prison labor compared to the cost of running a judicial system in the first place."

Which, in the US, would be a small group of private companies getting well paid by the taxpayer for running forcefully legitimized slave labor sweatshops bringing decent-sized wads of cash for the private companies in question?

Hmm. I still think the comparison to HADOPI is sound, except possibly where taxpayer handout brings way less profit to the private companies raising the claims.

"The question of "is it worth it" is trickier to answer."

…not really? I mean, when it comes to piracy what you have is the tide coming in. Having King Cnut ordering the sea to stop is enough of a demonstration, paying him to beat stray waves is taking it all the way into "Too dumb for words".

And putting the burden of enforcement on the tax payer when it concerns something as blatantly trivial as a civil misdemeanor roughly on par with taking a photo of someone’s house is disproportional by any standing comparison we have in acknowledged jurisprudens.

"…but the reasons are a lot more complex."

Again, not really. It concerns the taxpayers being robbed of €82 million in order to prevent people from…allowing other people to copy information which they own.
Exclusively for the benefit of small private industry.

Those 82 million would have been enough to pay for one or two fully equipped world class hospitals, refurbishing public transit in a major city, or building a number of roads – you know, the stuff the public purse is supposed to be used for?

The only way the reason turns complex is when you start buying into the fraudulent claim that an industry exclusively built around the concept of preventing other people from passing on stories somehow MUST exist – at all cost – because otherwise science and the arts will cease.

You really can’t defend copyright. Even less so an enforcement mechanism which pilfers the public purse to defend it anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

France compared to the U. S.

It’s (somewhat) comforting to know that the citizens of the U. S. aren’t the only people to elect fools to public office.

It’s (somewhat) comforting to know that the public officials of the U. S. aren’t the only public officials who are clueless.

It’s (rather) uncomfortable to know that the fool officials of the U. S. and France are supposed to be rationally managing nuclear weapons.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: France compared to the U. S.

"Why are many of the prospective candidates for political office corrupt? Is corruption really just part of doing business?"

Yes and then again, no.

Most people who are competent can get a real job. People who are ideologically driven and competent end up like Bernie Sanders unless they pull a Jimmy Carter and give up on the idea of getting any good done through politics. People who are ideologically driven and inept end up becoming tools for those who have competence but no ideology to speak of and who either end up professional grifters or, more lucratively, in politics.

It’s just a job which doesn’t attract the best people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: France compared to the U. S.

Jimmy Carter was a really bad President, but once he got out, ignoring his interference with North Korea when he had no power. He has done a lot of good with Habitat For Humanity. That is going out there and really making a change in people’s/family’s lives. Good for him do get involved like that after being President to then volunteer as he did. I respect that.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 France compared to the U. S.

"Good for him do get involved like that after being President to then volunteer as he did. I respect that."

Yeah. As president Carter was a lame duck hogtied by both houses being hostile, on top of making poor decisions.

As a human being afterwards he’s been a tireless advocate of human rights and a bringer of hope.

But it goes to show that POTUS, at least in the US, is a bad place to be if you are a decent human being. It’s what makes me think Trump, and before him, GWB, is nothing more than a symptom of a thoroughly broken system.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: France compared to the U. S.

Well, the French are more used to their government being headed by an idiot. That’s why in France it is more or less understood that the government will pound out deranged legislation the citizenry then proceeds to ignore or circumvent.

The real reason the US is shot is because, for some reason, those poor bastards believe in their politicians. To europeans – and especially the french – such belief is tantamount to a grown man stating confidently that Santa Claus will make everything right come christmas.

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Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well a man who downloads for the very first time, is really kind of naughty,
And a man who downloads on the second time round, they really should be caught-y.
And the man who ‘steals’ on the third time round, no need to frown, we’ll take ’em down…
Oh wait, we can’t as we’re just clowns but we’re your Hadopi!

Hadopi! Hadopi! Hadopi!
Pirates are hard to get!
Hadopi! Hadopi! Hadopi!
A waste of cash, you bet!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Sounds like a success to me

All they have to do is send out the occasional threat to people and in exchange they get a steady paycheck for doing basically nothing, sounds like an incredibly successful way to shift tens of millions to lazy grifters, which is what the entire thing was about, no?

I mean, it’s either that or it is a spectacular failure, and that simply cannot be the case.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Context

Another piece of context: at the time Hadopi was launched in 2009, there were very few legal music streaming options available. However, Spotify launched in France in the same year. It took Netflix until 2014 to launch in France.

According to this, the entire music streaming market in France is worth around $420 million US (around 355 million Euros)

https://www.statista.com/outlook/209/136/music-streaming/france

…and the entire video streaming market is worth around $724 million US (around 620 million Euros)

https://www.statista.com/outlook/206/136/video-streaming–svod-/france

So, video and music streaming – a market that either didn’t exist or was in their infancy when Hadopi was set up is now worth over a billion Euros, and there is no doubt that the existence of these services has made more of a dent in piracy than Hadopi’s entire existence ever has.

Imagine if that €82 million of taxpayers’ money had been used to set up a local streaming services rather than waiting for American and Swedish services to step in and help them out?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Context

"Imagine if that €82 million of taxpayers’ money had been used to set up a local streaming services rather than waiting for American and Swedish services to step in and help them out?"

That’s like asking the stagecoach industries to spend their subsidy money on building new and better cars rather than waste them in lobbying for yet another Red Flag Act.

The people defending yesterday from tomorrow – in this instance the Copyright Cult – simply aren’t able to embrace progress, even when it would kill them to do otherwise.

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