France takes on P2P downloaders

Users face threat of 'three strikes' policy before losing internet access if found illegally downloading copyright protected files using peer-to-peer networks.

French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has promised a "three strikes and you're out" policy for those internet users illegally downloading copyrighted files over peer-to-peer networks.

The speech outlined a new alliance to be struck between the French government, internet service providers (ISPs) and the music and film industry that will block persistent offenders from accessing the internet altogether.

According to the outlined plans - proposed by French entertainment retailer FNAC, whose chief chaired a committee looking at the issue - users will receive a warning for each illegal download detected, before losing internet access if they ignore a third warning.

And a proposed new enforcement body will oversee the collection and monitoring of information collected by ISPs on high-volume users to detect those taking part in illegal file-sharing.

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"The internet must not become a high-tech Far West, a lawless zone where outlaws can pillage works with abandon or, worse, trade in them in total impunity. And on whose backs? On artists' backs," said Sarkozy.

The proposals have inflamed passions from either side of the digital divide. But the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which is spearheading the strategy of voluntary ISP agreements, said consumers would benefit from shorter delays between US and European release dates and digital rights management (DRM) free content.

The British record industry's trade association, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), unsurprisingly backed the French move.

Commenting on proposals made by the French government, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said: "The BPI has been seeking to persuade ISPs for more than a year that they should implement such procedures but progress has been limited.

"We will continue to pursue voluntary arrangements, but unless these are achieved very soon we believe that the UK Government must act, as the French government has, to ensure that the urgent problem of internet piracy is tackled effectively."

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