The French Constitutional Council has validated the Creation and Internet law as voted by the French Assembly and Senate in September, while noting that legislators would still have to define exactly how certain elements are applied during the judicial process.

The bill follows the first part of the law passed in June, which created a new state agency, the Higher Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Copyright on the Internet (Hadopi), to oversee a system of educational warning letters.

After two warnings, Hadopi will defer repeat offenders cases to a judge, who will be able to rule through an "ordonnance pénale" (penal order), a simplified process that should enable swift rulings. The judge will be entitled to have the infringer's internet access cut for up to a year and to impose fines of €1,500 ($2,200), or €3,000 ($4,400) if the offender has already been fined in a similar case before.

The Constitutional Council validated the scheme, although it stated it is the responsibility of lawmakers to define exactly how it would be applied.

In a statement issued today, French minister of Culture and Communication Frédéric Mitterrand praised the Council for validating the "ordonnance pénale" scheme and acknowledged the fact that French Parliament will have to rule on it. The ministry press department could not confirm whether this means a new text would be presented to the Parliament.

Speaking to Billboard.biz, David El Sayegh, director general of French labels trade body Snep, said a new law was not necessary as the three-strike scheme was already fully applicable as corrected by the Council. According to El Sayegh, the Council is referring in its ruling to damages and interests that have to be defined by law in the "ordonnance pénale" process.

But, "there will be no damages and interests requested through an ordonnance pénale anyway," said El Sayegh. He added, in case of important infringements that would require damages and interests, pursuers can go through an existing legal procedure. Rights holders indeed still have the possibility to sue illegal file-sharers individually in front of a standard tribunal, in which case infringers remain liable to a €300,000 ($443,650) fine and three years in jail.

Mitterrand said Hadopi would be ready to send the first warning early 2010.