The international recording industry has welcomed a ground-breaking agreement on tackling internet music and film piracy in France, endorsed by President Sarkozy at its launch in Paris this morning.

The agreement provides for the setting up of a government body, which will operate a system of warnings leading to the suspension or termination of internet subscriptions used for illegal file-sharing. It will use information provided by internet service providers about high volume users to detect illegal file-sharing.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed in Paris today by music and film/video/TV companies, ISPs and public authorities. It follows an independent review commissioned by the French government on the fight against internet piracy and availability of creative content online, overseen by Denis Olivennes, CEO of pan-European retail chain Fnac.

London-based IFPI chairman/CEO John Kennedy praises Sarkozy's "leadership and vision" on the issue and he says the time is right for such a stringent enforcement campaign elsewhere, notably in the United Kingdom.

"I've been working on this for three years, trying to get ISPs voluntarily to play a role," Kennedy tells Billboard.Biz. In the U.K., I'm not sure the ISPs are going to get to the position that either we or the government expected them to." Kennedy adds that he believes the U.K. government will look at regulation in 2008, if there is no sign of "substantive progress" on voluntary arrangements.

"Kids and consumer groups tell us: you can't blame us for doing this if there are no consequences," he says. "When we've talked to them in focus groups about disconnection, they realise that is a huge consequence and that would be a real deterrent. I've always thought that the introduction of a measured disconnection campaign would have dramatic, positive results."

The French agreement also sees ISPs committing to experimenting with technologies to filter out infringing content on their networks, while the music industry agrees to drop digital rights management from downloads of archive material.

The new French body will publish the results of its anti-piracy actions every month, to assess how effective it has been. The move has been welcomed in the United Kingdom. "The French government has recognised that the talent and investment of artists and innovators must be properly valued on the internet if the digital economy is to achieve its potential," said BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor in a statement.

Taylor added: "we will continue to pursue voluntary arrangements, but unless these are achieved very soon we believe that the U.K. Government must act."

"Rights owners will welcome this innovative attempt to combat digital piracy," acknowledges lawyer Phil Sherrell from international law firm Eversheds. "The measure has the support of the creative industries, ISPs and the French government, so there would seem to be few obstacles to its implementation. The rest of Europe will be watching closely."

However, Sherrell adds that it remains to be seen how the new enforcement policy will work in practice. He says that if only high volume file sharers are targeted, then millions of casual illegal downloaders will continue to regard it as "acceptable" behaviour.