French ministers have voted against a 'three strikes rule' that would have resulted in illegal downloaders being banned from the web.

The proposal would have led to the creation of a new agency by the French government, which would identify illegal file sharers and warn them by email and letter. If they continued to persist their internet connection would be blocked.

If the legislation had been passed, France would have been the first country to give the go-ahead to the three-strikes proposal, possibly encouraging other countries, including in the UK, to follow suit.

A three-strikes rule has been suggested in the UK on a number of occasions. However recording industry body the BPI and British ISPs have not managed to come to agreement on how to tackle illegal downloads. This forced communications minister Stephen Carter to outline proposals in his Digital Britain report for a new government agency that will mediate between the two to overcome the problem.

The French proposal was initially approved by France's upper house, but was rejected by the National Assembly. It is thought the bill was rejected because it would have seen banned web users still have to pay for their broadband connection. It is now expected that the proposal will be amended and presented to the French government again later this year.