The French President today trumpeted a new plan by some of the country's ISPs and its record and film industries to shut off illegal file-sharers' internet access.
In a landmark speech Nicolas Sarkozy said: "The rights of authors, the preservation of creativity, the recognition of the rights of each artist, of each performer... was an important commitment of my presidential campaign.
"Today an accord is signed and I see a decisive moment for the civilised internet. Everywhere, in the US, UK and others, industry and government have tried... to find a permanent resolution to the problem of piracy. We are the first, in France to try to build a national grand alliance around clear and viable proposals."
The plan has been drawn up by French retail exec Denis Olivennes. It will see signatory ISPs - including France Telecom, which owns Orange in the UK - hand over information on heavy users of file-sharing networks to a new enforcement body which will formally warn them to stop. If they persist, their connection will be cut.
As part of the bargain, movies will be released on DVD six months after the cinema run, and music will be offered for legal download DRM-free.
Marc Le Fur and Alain Suguenot, members of Sarkozy's own party, condemned the proposal, arguing it "creates a truly exceptional jurisdiction for downloaders, contravening the principle of equality before the law".
France's deal could set a precedent, however. Rights holders have been pressuring UK ISPs to join them in setting up a similar scheme. Government minister Lord Triesman has threatened new laws to force broadband providers to act against illegal file-sharers if a voluntary agreement can't be reached, though said that talks were progresssing well.
The BPI, which used to stand for the British Record Institute but has now rebranded so that it stands for nothing, welcomed the French move. Chief exec 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."
A spokesman for the ISP trade association ISPA told The Reg: "The BPI's opinion is up to them. The Department for Business, Employment and Regulatory Reform is aware that we are engaged with on this issue and we welcome contact from rights holders."
All involved would prefer a voluntary settlement, but have to negotiate the morass of domestic and European data protection, human rights, ecommerce and intellectual property legislation.
Taylor continued: "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."
ISPs, meanwhile, say the government is putting out confusing messages by lauding the importance of access to internet economy with one hand, but waving the stick of disconnecting people who use it for file-sharing.
Our sources in the UK ISP and record industry say any deal here won't be finalised until at least well into next year. Talks are furthest advanced with the Motion Picture Ass. of America, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
The French government documents including further details, speeches, the list of participants can be seen here. ®