MPs from France's ruling conservative party have blocked a move to legalise Internet downloading of movie and music files, after several days of sharp debate in parliament.
The vote by members of the UMP party late Thursday signalled a victory for the government as it pushes through a bill that would outlaw the downloading of commercial files as well the breaking of copyright protection on DVDs or CDs.
MPs from the Socialist, Communist, Green and UDF parties walked out in protest ahead of the vote, allowing it to be adopted nearly unanimously.
Nevertheless, deep divisions remain in France over how best to balance consumer rights against copyright in the Internet age.
The UMP vote scrapped an article in the bill which would have upheld a text adopted by parliament last December to legalise downloading in return for Internet users paying a de facto flat tax of eight to 12 euros a month that would go to pay artists' royalties.
The opposition and even some UMP parliamentarians, backed by consumer groups, had argued that such a tax was the best way to remunerate copyright holders -- especially as an estimated eight to 10 million French people download copyrighted material currently without paying a cent.
But the government, which is trying to bring French law into line with a 2001 EU directive on copyright on digital media, has fiercely opposed the idea and used every means in its power to see it quashed.
Debate over the rest of the digital copyright bill before parliament is to continue, with a vote on its adoption expected March 15.