The French Court of Appeal of Montpellier apparently said yesterday that downloading copyrighted films from the Internet for private use was defensible in France. Yet another French court handed out a big fine for the same activity in January.
INDICARE adds that "Once a work has been disclosed, the author may not prohibit: 2°. copies or reproductions reserved strictly for the private use of the copier and not intended for collective use (...)
This does not mean that the Court has judged that movie downloading is now legal in France on a general basis. Though I have not (yet) seen the judgment, it (probably) gives the indication that private use may be a defense against a claim of copyright infringement for downloading. While this might be called a recognition of the private copying clause in the digital environment, it is not clear if this will hold up. There are currently about 50 comparable criminal cases pending, and in the past users have been sentenced for these acts. It has to be seen if this decision will be followed in the future.
Towards DRMs the private copying clause does not do much good. An earlier French court decision made it clear that private copying should be regarded as a defense and not a right Consequently it cannot be called upon against the rightsholder. If a user cannot make a copy the private use exception will not provide a legal tool to achieve this. The optimists of Audionautes might say that downloading now provides a legal alternative."