France's new law to combat online piracy by disconnecting offenders is unconstitutional, the country's top court has ruled.
The law, passed last month with the backing of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, gives state copyright officials the power to cut internet access to persistent downloaders of copyright material.
An alliance of eight UK creative organisations and five trade unions is calling for similar measures to force ISPs to monitor users and ban those caught sharing content illegally.
But the French Constitutional Council has struck down the provision and ruled that only a judge can bar individuals from the internet, describing access to online services as a human right, the BBC reports.
The law, which allows officials to bar users from the internet for a year after three warnings, has been criticised by French consumer groups.
They said the scheme amounted to state surveillance and that the wrong people might be punished if hackers hijack computers to make illegal downloads.
Consumer groups have also objected to the new legislation's creation of a non-judicial body with the power to police the internet, saying it could threaten civil liberties.