Almost exactly one year after it was tabled, and after having passed under the Conseil constitutionnel’s microscope — with some important casualties, in particular the censure of the online contempt offence — the French Law on Securing and Regulating the Digital Space (“SREN Act”) was enacted on 21 May 2024.

The SREN Act aims to further regulate the digital space, focusing on three major areas: (i) protecting citizens, particularly minors; (ii) ensuring European economic and digital sovereignty; and (iii) adapting French law to European regulations. To achieve its ambitious goals, the SREN Act covers a wide range of topics, from interoperability obligations for cloud service providers to strengthen trust and competition in the data economy, to the regulation of games with monetizable digital objects. Last but not least, the SREN Act transposes recently enacted European regulations, in particular the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, into French national law.

Amongst its sixty-odd articles, the SREN Act provides for new regulation content obligations imposed on a variety of online service providers (1) to protect minors from online pornography and (2) to further combat online scams, hate and disinformation. This article outlines this new regulatory landscape.

1. Protection of minors from online pornography

In order to protect minors from online pornography, the SREN Act amends the Law for Confidence in the Digital Economy (implementing the e-Commerce Directive under French law) (“LCEN”) and creates new powers for the agency responsible for digital communications, the Autorité de régulation de la communication audiovisuelle et numérique (“ARCOM”), especially injunction powers. The SREN Act’s main obligations supplementing the LCEN can be summarized as follows.

  Obligation  Online service provider concernedTimeframe for complianceMaximum Sanctions
Obligation to comply with ARCOM’s formal notice to observe the reference framework on the minimum technical requirements to be met by age verification systems on pornographic sites– Public online communication services
– Video-sharing platforms
Within 1 month of ARCOM’s formal notice– EUR 150,000 or 2% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher  
– EUR 300,000 or 4% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher, in cases of repeated breaches within five years of the date on which the first penalty became final
Obligation to prevent minors from accessing pornographic content published in violation of Art. 227-24 of the French Criminal Code– Public online communication services
– Video-sharing platforms
Within 15 days of ARCOM’s formal notice– EUR 250,000 or 4% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher  
– EUR 500,000 or 6% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher, in cases of repeated breaches within five years of the date on which the first penalty became final
Obligation to block access to online public communication services and video-sharing platforms which did not comply with the above-mentioned obligation i.e., which enabled access to pornographic content to minors. Such obligation also applies to services which reproduce identical content

Obligation to cease referencing the above-mentioned websites
– Internet access service  
– Domain name resolution systems
– Software
– Directories
Within 48 hours of ARCOM’s injunction– EUR 75,000 or 1% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher
– EUR 150,000 or 2% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher, in cases of repeated breaches within five years of the date on which the first penalty became final
Obligation to prevent the download of the software applications that are used by online public communication services and/or video-sharing platforms to give access to pornographic content to minors– Software application storesWithin 48 hours of ARCOM’s injunction– 1% of global turnover excluding tax
Obligation to remove child pornography content– Hosting servicesWithin 24 hours of the take-down request issued by the administrative authorityCriminal sanctions:
– 1 year of prison
– EUR 250,000 or 4% of global turnover excluding tax if the non-compliance is usual
For legal persons, the sanctions are as follows:
– EUR 1,250,000 euros
– Prohibition, permanently or for a maximum of 5 years, from directly or indirectly engaging in one or more professional or corporate activities
– Publication or dissemination of the decision either in the press or by any electronic means of communication to the public
Obligation to inform the provider of the child pornography content of the removal of such content and to specify the reasons for the removal, the possibility of requesting a copy of the removal order, and the rights available to the content provider to contest the removal request before the competent administrative jurisdiction– contest the removal request before the competent administrative jurisdictioncontest the removal request before the competent administrative jurisdictionThe SREN Act itself does not specify any sanction
2. Fight against online scams, hate and misinformation

At a broader level, the SREN Act also seeks to further combat online scams, hate and misinformation through various means. The main obligations imposed on platforms in these areas can be summarized as follows.

  Obligation  Online service provider concernedTimeframe for complianceMaximum Sanctions
Obligation to remove the content disseminating images of torture or acts of barbarism within the meaning of article 222-1 of the French Criminal Code  – Public online communication services
– Hosting services
Within 24 hours of the administrative authority’s injunction.    The SREN Act itself does not provide for any sanction
In case of non-removal of the content mentioned above, obligation to prevent the access to the electronic addresses of the online public communication services which breach article 222-1 of the French Criminal Code– Hosting servicesWithout delayThe SREN Act itself does not provide for any sanction
Obligation to remove or block any pornographic content reported by a person represented in such content as being distributed in violation of “its rights assignment agreement”– Hosting servicesPromptlyThe SREN Act itself does not provide for any sanction
Obligation to remove or block the dissemination of online content originating from media targeted by European sanctions (in order to protect citizens from content that contributes to the spread of false information)– Public online communication services
– Hosting services
Within  72 hours of ARCOM’s injunction– EUR. 250,000 or 4% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher  
– EUR. 500,000 or 6% of global turnover excluding tax, whichever is higher, in cases of repeated breaches within five years of the date on which the first penalty became final
The SREN Act also creates an optional additional penalty of a 6-month suspension of “online services” access accounts for users convicted of certain offenses (e.g., sexual harassment, serious press offenses, etc.).
Obligation for hosting service providers to comply with the request for the blocking/suspension of the above-mentioned accounts
– Hosting servicesFrom the date of notification of court’s suspension decision– EUR. 75,000

Most provisions of the SREN Act came into force on 23 May 2024, i.e., the day after its publication. However, several implementing decrees are expected to set the conditions under which some of the provisions described above will apply. Search engines and platforms that host media online should review content moderation policies for compliance with the new law and should monitor implementing decrees for further clarification on the applicability of the SREN Act. If you have any questions regarding the SREN Act, please contact the authors of this alert.

Find out more on the SREN Act.

Link to the SREN Act: https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jorf/id/JORFTEXT000049563368

Link to our Tech & Data Team’s blog article “A legal framework for NFTs and other tradeable assets in video games: the Great French Experiment”: https://www.connectontech.com/a-legal-framework-for-nfts-and-other-tradeable-assets-in-video-games-the-great-french-experiment/

Author

Pauline Celeyron is a senior associate and has practiced in the Intellectual Property Group of Baker McKenzie in Paris since 2015. Pauline's practice focuses on both contentious and non-contentious matters on all IP aspects, with a particular focus on copyright and trademark laws. She has developed an in-depth knowledge of digital copyright, intermediary liability and notice and takedown issues and regulations. She also has an expertise in trademark portfolio management and litigation, in the implementation of anti-counterfeiting programs and in the drafting of complex intellectual property agreements.

Author

Laurie Offredo joined the Intellectual Property Group of Baker McKenzie in October 2021 as an associate. Laurie’s practice focuses on trademark, copyright, trade secrets and unfair competition issues.