France has approved a controversial 'three strikes' piracy law, whereby internet users are disconnected for illegally copying music, movies and other copyrighted materials via online file-sharing sites.

British supporters of the move hope that the UK may pass similar legislation in the near future. However, there is a large groundswell of opinion amongst consumers and the ISP industry against the introduction of such draconian measures.

"France is acting as a spearhead," David El Sayegh, director general of the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (the French music industry association) told Reuters. "Piracy is not just a French problem, it is a global problem."

Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesman for group La Quadrature du Net, is highly critical of the move, noting: "It is a very sad day for Internet freedom in France."

Logistical nightmares

Persistent offenders in France could now face up to a year without internet access, with a new agency being assembled to manage and police the process.

However, disconnections will still need to be first signed off by a judge in a court of law.

Leading British ISPs such as Virgin Media and BT, have been consistently critical of such 'three strikes' laws, claiming that to enforce such measures would be both expensive and logistically a nightmare.