PARIS: The French National Assembly has approved some of the toughest anti-internet piracy legislation in the world.
If it becomes law, the so-called Hadopi Bill, named after the new agency it would create, could allow the authorities to freeze the internet connection of illegal downloaders, impose fines of up to €300,000 ($441,000; £269,600) and even jail repeat offenders for two years.
The new bill, already approved by the Senate, is also known as the 'Three-Strikes Law' for its graduated response to web piracy. The first step is to send a suspected illegal downloader a warning email and this is followed up with a letter. If an offender persists in downloading content without the permission of the copyright owner, their internet connection could be cut off for a year.
The bill also requires that wi-fi users block non-authorised users from accessing their connection.
French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand said: "Artists will remember that we at last had the courage to break with the laissez-faire approach and protect their rights from people who want to turn the net into their libertarian utopia."
But Internet freedom advocates have slammed the bill as draconian and a sop to the music and film industries.
Sweden already has a comparable legal framework and has seen a massive drop in internet piracy.
The European Parliament however has taken a strong stance against such legislation, arguing that cutting off people's internet access is akin to cutting off electricity or water. It believes that internet access is a fundamental human right.
Data sourced from EUobserver.com; additional content by WARC staff