April 18, 2024

A Modest Proposal: Three-Strikes for Print

Yesterday the French parliament adopted a proposal to create a “three-strikes” system that would kick people off the Internet if they are accused of copyright infringement three times.

This is such a good idea that it should be applied to other media as well. Here is my modest proposal to extend three-strikes to the medium of print, that is, to words on paper.

My proposed system is simplicity itself. The government sets up a registry of accused infringers. Anybody can send a complaint to the registry, asserting that someone is infringing their copyright in the print medium. If the government registry receives three complaints about a person, that person is banned for a year from using print.

As in the Internet case, the ban applies to both reading and writing, and to all uses of print, including informal ones. In short, a banned person may not write or read anything for a year.

A few naysayers may argue that print bans might be hard to enforce, and that banning communication based on mere accusations of wrongdoing raises some minor issues of due process and free speech. But if those issues don’t trouble us in the Internet setting, why should they trouble us here?

Yes, if banned from using print, some students will be unable to do their school work, some adults will face minor inconvenience in their daily lives, and a few troublemakers will not be allowed to participate in — or even listen to — political debate. Maybe they’ll think more carefully the next time, before allowing themselves to be accused of copyright infringement.

In short, a three-strikes system is just as good an idea for print as it is for the Internet. Which country will be the first to adopt it?

Once we have adopted three-strikes for print, we can move on to other media. Next on the list: three-strikes systems for sound waves, and light waves. These media are too important to leave unprotected.



  1. jan Wildeboer says

    After three alleged infringements you are not allowed to file patents for 10 years. Simple, isn’t it?


  2. Anonymous says

    It’s hard to imagino more of htat on such a small text: As far as know it’s impossiblo to donwload copyrighted material by writing on a piece of paper. I have a much better suggestion: Stop stealing other people’s property and behave,and then those laws will not be needed.

    • Anonymous says

      Nobody has been accused, let alone convicted, of stealing anything — some have been accused (but not convicted) of copyright infringement, that is, the infringement of a mercantile privilege.

  3. balaknair says

    Any politician accused three times of lying should be banned from speaking for an year?
    Or if an elected representative is accused of acting against the interests of his/her constituents three times, s/he is banned from participation in the political process for an year?

  4. I’d say three-strikes for paper would be appropriate to handle the suspicious people who write by hand.

    Thank you for writing a clear and to the point comment on a not so good legislation.

  5. Can we start a campaign to start accusing French political figures and their assistants of piracy?

  6. actually, it’s not people who report to the HADOPI, but the hadopi that use a private company to retreive ip adresses from Peer 2 Peer networks (using “Honey pot” technique or Hash files IDs), and compare with DHCP logs from internet providers to find who it was and :

    1st Time a warning
    2nd time a letter
    3rd time cut the internet access (but not TV or Telephone) wich he will continue to pay…

    as you can imagine, VPN providers, SSL newsgroup servers, and other Wifi hacking stuff are kind of growing on google search…

  7. Anonymous says

    what about pirated clothes? 3 strikes and you have to stay naked for a year!

    • Anonymous says

      If the only people that ever do it are slim women between the ages of 18 and 30, I’m all for it. {weg}

  8. Anonymous says

    Anybody has suggestions for a punishment when pingingback at least three times?

  9. Anonymous says

    The solution seems simple to me. Ask French people to contact this “Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet” and report their own representative. If just 3 people from each district do that, the assembly members will be cut off from the internet and perhaps see the possible injustice inherent in the legislation.
    Good day

  10. How come we make a law based on the rules of baseball ?
    We are really thinking rationally aren’t we – make up a law based on the rules of a game!

    Even more surprising that the French would write a law based on an AMERICAN GAME!.

    • It’s not actually based on the rules of baseball.

      In baseball there is a neutral umpire who decides, based on evidence, what is a strike.

      • Yes – they just take the soundbite they like.

        In the real rules there are also penalties (a free run) for bowling four non-strike balls – so if you follow the baseball analogy four false accusations should be sufficient for a penalty to be awarded against the accuser

  11. Anonymous says

    excuse my lack of sarcasm, but
    I wonder when the rule of law parted from the peoples will? Could this be the much needed proof of alien presence on earth?

    ???????? ?????? ??? ???????,

  12. NateCarp says

    Quite right, sir–but you certainly don’t go far enough. There is a preponderance of everyday speakers who fail to use “air quotes” when citing popular movies, songs, novels, poems, scripture, etc. Offenders should be forced to remain quiet for one year for every unattributed (and therefore stolen) quote.


  13. Carlie Coats says

    Lets add the same penalties for fraudulent claim of copyright.

  14. BertBert says

    We can easily extend this to patents as well, say on gentech patents.

    So if you eat (or worse, share with your colleagues) a piece of bread made with genetically engineered grain, you will be forbidden to eat for a year!

    (Of course this only applies if you didn’t pay the license on the wheat, which will not be uncommon if the engineered pollen fertilize normal (unlicensed, unengineered) crops.)

  15. A truly modest ptoposal would propose only one strike for print… etc.

  16. all I read was “accused”.

  17. I don’t think people should be banned from using all printed media after three accusations; if they want to read material that has been transcribed specifically for them, or self-publish their works by hectography or handset letterpress, that would be OK.

    The French law would be much aided by the addition of simple symmetry: bar from the internet any physical or legal person demonstrated to have made three false accusations of infringement in a year…

  18. Anonymous says

    You can’t be a digital “pirate” without electricity. Cut off the pirate perpetrator’s electricity.

    And don’t forget – virtually all pirates drank milk as children. Ban milk.

  19. That is not nearly sufficient. If we are to have an equitable and fair offline counterpart to the now well accepted 3 strikes regime, we must recognise that a fair offline punishment must go well beyond the activity was deserving of the punishment. The fair and proportional response to blatantly misappropriating NZ$6 worth of music online is to remove ones online ability to engage in reading, shopping, internet banking, business, social networking, education and entertainment (and a few other non-essential activities). Similarly therefore, it seems only fair that if one forgets to return one’s library books – a similarly heinous crime (even though its always my friends who borrow them in my name) – one should lose the right as you say to read. But the right to do any of the equivalent activities that would be lost with the removal of internet accesss must also surely be added. I would be extremely disappointed to see anyone who has failed to return the set of BSA reports held at my local library turn up at a movie thatre and expect to be admitted.

  20. Quick note to say this post is GENIUS!!!

  21. Anonymous says

    If you eat unhealthy food three times, you will be banned from eating. Except for cake. You can let them eat cake.

  22. Or how about a ban on programming? Or even certain programming languages haha? I wonder if my Professor at American Sentinel (www.americansentinel.edu) would give me an extension on my final if I told him I was banned from programming because of the new three strikes rule… hmm…

  23. I very much hope your proposal is meant as sarcastic criticism. It’s ridiculous, to be sure, but not so ridiculous that I can’t imagine someone putting it forth in earnest.

    • The piece is called “A Modest Proposal”, after the satirical essay of the same name by Jonathan Swift. Snip from Wikipedia’s introduction to the article of the same name: “Swift appears to suggest in his essay that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.” So yes, it’s drastic and absurd on purpose. 😉

      Porting the three-strike rule to other media is fascinating, though. I would LOVE seeing people blindfolded for a few weeks or months for watching pirated material three times…

  24. Anyone who repeatedly (3 times) farts near me, has bad breath, body odor or otherwise offensive vapors shall be prohibited from the use of air for 6 to 12 months!

  25. Yeah, so here in the US we have this thing called the law, so people can’t just decide who gets punished for what. That’s why we do that whole go-to-court thing.

    Anywho, copyright law specifically allows a wide variety of uses of copyrighted material under the Fair Use provisions. Huge amounts of what you want to _criminalize_ are legitimate, legal uses.

    BTW, how’s the weather back in the 70’s. You wouldn’t believe it, but the hairstyles are back!

    • … actually, the DMCA doesn’t require any evidence for you to be given a subpoena. Granted, you aren’t fined based on that, but at a minimum, your privacy has been compromised.

  26. Anonymous says

    If it was expanded to copying software…

    So then , Microsoft copying Apple or Linux 3 times (or vice versa) in their OS would ban them from making OS’s

    That would be fun 🙂

  27. I think that one should also carefully consider extending this idea, eventually, to the thought procsess.

    Intellectual property is all about ideas. I, for one, certainly don’t want people infringing on my ideas.

    Implementing a three strikes scheme on thought infringements sounds like a good idea to me. Banning people from thinking after repeat accusations of infringement might also sound harse. But then again, a few more trouble makers kept from thinking in a year or so, who’d tell any difference?

    Just keep in mind: The idea of extending this principle to the domain of thoughs, was my idea and mine alone. Don’t you dare implementing it without my kind permission.

  28. Anonymous says

    No doubt a team of three Frenchmen will fairly rapidly bring forward accusations against various key political figures who will in turn explain to the public that the rules are only enforced when convenient. After that it will be business as usual.