The French government has given the green light to the controversial “three strikes” plan, which will disconnect pirates in the country from their broadband connections if caught downloading illegal material three times. The scheme was endorsed by the cabinet of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said that “there is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone.”

Starting in January, those guilty of illegal downloads will receive an online warning, then a letter, and finally have their internet access cut off for up to a year if they persist. A newly created independent authority, called HADOPI, is to be in charge of issuing warnings and potentially cutting infringers’ Internet subscription – though it remains unclear exactly how the offenders will be caught. On the upside, the entertainment industry will reportedly also drop existing copyright protection on French material so that music or videos bought legally online can be played on any sort of device.

ISPs aren’t keen to play cyber-cops, however, and they claim the complexity of such a plan is being vastly underestimated. A similar plan in the European Union was voted down last April, with many EU member countries citing concerns over civil liberties and human rights.