[Updated24/10/2009 - despite the decision below, the French Government has introduced a "cut-off" provision, albeit, only on the say-so of a judge.]
Excerpt from article in the Independent:
"Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said the members of a watchdog to oversee application of the digital clampdown would be named in November and the first warnings would go out "from the start of 2010."
The law sets up an agency that will send out an email warning to people found to be illegally downloading films or music.
A written warning is sent if a second offence is registered in six months and after a third, a judge will be able to order a one-year Internet rights suspension or a fine."
Here is an English translation of the 10 June 2009 decision of the French Constitutional Council [90 kB PDF]. As I understand it, the decision had the effect of overturning French Government plans to allow ISPs to cut off copyright infringers from the Internet. The decision is interesting because it makes such a clear connection between Internet access and a French citizen's right (enshrined in 1789) freely to communicate ideas and opinions. In effect, the ruling asserts that even if a citizen's use of the Internet may involve copyright infringement, that should not of itself entitle an ISP to cut off the citizen's connection. Excerpt:
"12. Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789 proclaims : "The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Every citizen may thus speak, write and publish freely, except when such freedom is misused in cases determined by Law". In the current state of the means of communication and given the generalized development of public online communication services and the importance of the latter for the participation in democracy and the expression of ideas and opinions, this right implies freedom to access such services."
The French approach contrasts with the 25 August UK Government announcement [50 kB PDF] that in respect of "subscribers alleged by rights holders to be infringing copyright" it is now "considering the case for adding into the list of technical measures [to be at the disposal of ISPs] the power, as a last resort, to suspend a subscriber's account". The Digital Britain team strive in the Government's Digital Britain Forum to keep discussion of these issues civilised and open - 25 August 2009 and 27 August 2009 - but reaction is mainly hostile.