France’s top legislative court, the Constitutional Council, has decreed that a crucial element of the Creation and Internet piracy law passed on May 13 - the power to cut off Internet access to people caught downloading content illegally as part of a three strikes measure - is contrary to the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

The council said only a judge, as opposed to an independent committee, should be allowed to eliminate a violator’s Internet rights.

The Creation and Internet Law had been hotly debated for months before ultimately being passed. On one side of the issue were President Nicolas Sarkozy, Internet access providers and a large portion of the artistic community which believed the three strikes measure and ultimate punishment via a one-year Internet access ban, were necessary to help discourage pirates.

On the other side, much of the Socialist party along with many consumers and some artists and online activists believed the measure to interfere with human rights. When the law passed in the Senate, Socialist deputies called for the Constitutional Council to censor the law.

According to Agence France Presse, French culture minister Christine Albanel on Wednesday said she hoped to “quickly amend” the law in order to give jurisdiction to the judicial system over cutting off Internet access. Albanel also said she regretted “not being able to, as the government and the parliament wished, follow through on the logic” in which the law was initially conceived.

The Independent Producers Union meanwhile, said it was “dismayed” by the Constitutional Council’s decision. Consumer group UFC-Que Choisir, one of the most vocal detractors of the law, said it was “very happy that the Constitutional Council proved its wisdom” via its decision. This decision, UFC’s Edouard Barreiro told AFP, “establishes that the Internet is a fundamental right.”

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