PARIS (AFP) — A controversial French bill to combat Internet piracy by cutting off the web to illegal downloaders won final approval Wednesday in the Senate.
The legislation, described as one of the toughest ever drafted against Internet piracy, will punish those who download music and film illegally by shutting down their Internet access for up to a year.
The bill was passed by an overwhelming majority of 189 to 14 in the upper house, setting the stage for President Nicolas Sarkozy to sign it into law.
But the Socialist opposition has said it planned to ask the Constitutional Council, France's highest authority, to rule on the legality of the bill.
Under the bill, a state agency known by the acronym Hadopi will be set up to track and punish those who download films and songs without paying, serving as a go-between for content providers and Internet service providers.
The legislation will set up a "three-strikes" system for offenders who first receive an email warning, then a letter and finally lose their Internet account for up to a year if they are caught a third time.
The bill enjoys broad support from the music and film industry in France and abroad, but consumer groups and the Socialist opposition have warned it will be difficult to implement.
Opponents say the bill fails to give alleged offenders enough recourse to challenge accusations and they argue that web innovations will make it possible for downloaders to avoid detection.
The National Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 296 to 233 on Tuesday, a month after the text was rejected in a surprise setback for Sarkozy, who has championed the measure.
Major record labels, recording artists and film producers welcomed the outcome of the vote and urged the government to act quickly to implement its provisions.
"This legislation, long-awaited by songwriters and composers, is a welcome step forward after many years of laissez-faire," said Bernard Miyet, president of the SACEM group representing composers and songwriters.
French chanson entertainer Charles Aznavour, a vocal supporter of the measure, said the stakes were especially high for the new generation of artists who are struggling to make a living from music.
"If the youth can't make a living through creative work, they will do something else and the artistic world will be dealt a blow," said Aznavour who was in France for the Cannes film festival.
"There will be no more songs, no more books, nothing at all. So we had to fight."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »