French music copyright holders should be able to intensify their fight against illegal file-sharers following an appeal judgment filed by the highest administrative court in France.

The Conseil d'Etat on May 23 canceled an October 2005 decision by CNIL, an independent French data protection authority. The original CNIL rule denied producer societies SCPP and SPPF and author and composer societies SACEM and SDRM the right to automatically detect illegal file-sharers on the Web.

In a statement, SPPF welcomed the latest decision. "We are very happy," SCPP director general Marc Guez told, "although the problem is not solved."

Copyright holders apparently still don't have the right to send a warning message to filesharers caught downloading illegally. "We have the right to repress but not to prevent", explains Guez, who believes the situation will change shortly.

While SCPP has been "manually" detecting users illegally sharing protected content, Guez says SCPP will file another request to CNIL to automate the process.

The decision of Conseil d'Etat changes the rules of the game. "We will have to examine [new copyright holders] requests in the light of the new framework defined by the Conseil d'Etat", acknowledged Yann Padova, CNIL's general secretary.

The initial request of SCPP, SPPF, SACEM and SDRM included several steps, depending on the level of infringement. The organizations fought for new measures, through which Internet-users caught sharing between 500 and 1,000 files would face civil suits and have their access cut by their ISP.

The Conseil d'Etat decision is likely to open the way to a higher incidence of lawsuits in France. The newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy has clearly stated that its government would support the music industry in its fight against online piracy.