Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

French pirates face net cut-off

Nicolas Sarkozy in silhouette, AP
Sarkozy: "A decisive moment for the future of a civilised internet"

French plans to throw persistent pirates off the net have got closer to becoming law.

The French Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of the law, which aims to tackle ongoing piracy of music, movies, and games online.

Those caught illegally sharing digital media will get warnings e-mailed and posted to them before having their net connection terminated.

The proposed law now goes to the French National Assembly for final approval.

The idea to tackle piracy with such a three strikes law was first floated in November 2007, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called it: "a decisive moment for the future of a civilised internet".

Under the plan, net firms will be enrolled as watchdogs that will keep an eye on consumers indulging in casual piracy.

Those spotted illegally sharing copyrighted works, such as music tracks or movies, will get two warnings, but if they do not heed these then their net connection with be terminated.

The French Senate voted 297 to 15 to back the law, which will also create a new governmental body that will oversee the anti-piracy work. Companies will be encouraged to install firewalls blocking content sharing by employees.

Prior to the Senate vote, French politicians rejected an amendment, by Bruno Retailleau of the right-wing MPF party, which suggested using fines instead of cutting people off.

Mr Retailleau said the net had become an "essential commodity" and cutting people off went too far.

If enacted, the law will put France on a collision course with Brussels, which rejected a call to impose such "three strikes" laws across Europe in April 2008.

Throwing people offline, it said, conflicted with "civil liberties and human rights".

At the same time Sweden is reportedly drawing up laws that will make it easier to track down and prosecute persistent pirates. The law might be enacted in early 2009.

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