French parliament delays vote on Internet law

PARIS, July 21 (Reuters) - A law backed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to tackle Internet piracy suffered a new setback on Tuesday after legislators postponed a vote on the bill until September.

France’s top constitutional court has already watered down a text approved by parliament in June that would have seen the creation of an authority with the power to cut Internet access to those found guilty of downloading music illegally.

Now legislators from the opposition Socialists and communists, as well as some lawmakers from the ruling UMP party have decided a vote on the text will not take place on Friday.

With parliament due to begin its summer recess next week, approval will now probably be delayed until September.

The music industry, which wants governments and Internet providers to crack down on illegal downloading of copyrighted work, has given its support to the project.

But consumer groups fear intrusive monitoring of online activities and warned that innocent users may be unfairly punished if hackers use their accounts to download files.

The constitutional court ruled any new body could only issue warnings and that any removal of access would have to be decided by a judge.

The Socialists, who antagonised many of their traditional supporters in the arts world by opposing the bill, which they say “doesn’t bring a single extra centime to artists”.

“We have just scored a point. Doubts that existed about the first law continue concerning this new law,” Jean-Marc Ayrault, leader of the Socialists in the lower house said after legislators voted for the delay. (Reporting by Emile Picy; writing by Joseph Tandy; editing by James Mackenzie)