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French ISPs to Crack Down on Music Pirates

PARIS (AP) _ French Internet service providers agreed Wednesday to cooperate in a crackdown against Web surfers who illegally download music online.

In a government-backed charter also signed by record labels and musicians' groups, France's leading Internet companies agreed to pull the plug on pirates and step up cooperation with copyright prosecutions.

The agreement was signed by representatives of Internet service providers Free, Noos, Club-Internet, Wanadoo and Tiscali France.

Christine Levet, Club-Internet CEO and head of France's Association of Internet Service Providers, stressed that companies like her own ``will cut subscriptions only upon the decision of a judge.''

Nevertheless, the charter also calls on music copyright holders to launch and publicize ``targeted civil and criminal'' court action against pirates by the end of the year.

By agreeing to help in the crackdown on pirates, French Internet companies hope they can head off the need for tough legislation such as the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the United States _ which holds service providers financially liable if they don't immediately remove copyright material posted by their users when requested to do so.

Record labels have also won thousands of example-setting lawsuits filed against U.S. Internet users who downloaded copyrighted tracks.

The French Internet companies agreed to use ``termination or suspension clauses'' to cancel the subscriptions of pirates caught in the act.

They also pledged to send warning messages to individual customers upon request from rights holders and to ``act immediately'' on court orders to identify clients or cut them off.

Record labels, Internet companies, musicians and the societies that collect their royalties all agreed to speed up the development of legitimate download sites with ``clear and competitive pricing.'' The charter set the goal of doubling the number of music tracks available on French-language sites to 600,000 by the end of the year.

The signatories also agreed to study music industry suggestions that Internet service providers offer ``peer-to-peer filters'' to users, allowing them to block their own _ or their children's _ access to file-sharing sites like Kazaa and eDonkey.
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