France's strategy to combat illegal music downloads by contributing to the amount young people pay for them won European Union approval and praise for promoting cultural diversity.

Under the scheme, French residents who purchase a card - the Carte musique - to download music from subscription-based website platforms, will only pay half the cost of a €50 ($70) credit included in the card, with the French government paying the rest.

The scheme, which will benefit 12-to-25-year-olds, is expected to last two years, with consumers limited to one card a year. It will cost France €25 million ($35 million) annually based on its sales estimate of a million cards.

The European Commission, the EU competition watchdog, said that the benefits of the French plan outweighed any potential anti-competitive effects.

"We welcome initiatives... to increase the availability of music online at a lower price for consumers and through legal distribution channels," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

"The scheme will contribute to preserving pluralism and cultural diversity in the online music industry," the commission said, adding it would also help economic development.

In return for the state aid, website operators will be required to cut the price of music, extend the duration of subscriptions, and contribute to the cost of advertising the card. Their benefit will be capped at €5 million ($7 million) each.