EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - In defiance of the European Parliament, the French lower house has approved a law that has widely been described as the most aggressive attempt to counter internet piracy yet.
The 'three-strikes' law that would cut off internet access to users found to be repeatedly downloading copyright content without the permission of the owner was passed by 296 votes to 233 in what is the government's second attempt to push through the bill.
The legislation, which creates a new government agency, the Hadopi ( the Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet, or High Authority for the Diffusion of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet), which first sends a web-surfer an email warning, then a letter through the post and, finally, as the third 'strike,' can interrupt his internet access for up to a year.
The bill, a flagship piece of legislation for President Nicholas Sarkozy, whose wife is a pop star, was defeated last month when deputies from the governing centre-right UMP failed to turn up to vote in sufficient numbers and the opposition Socialists managed to quash it.
However, in a move targetting the French three-strikes law, last week, the European Parliament approved an amendment to a major piece of telecommunications legislation specifically outlawing the ability of governments to cut off internet access without first receiving a court order.
The European bill including the amendment must still be endorsed by the [unelected] Council of Ministers, representing the EU member states, when telecoms ministers meet on 12 June.