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French Parliament Moves Toward Legalizing File-Sharing

The French government, bowing to pressure from lawmakers, revived a measure legalizing file-sharing and submitted it to debate Thursday as part of a larger draft law on fighting piracy.

It was the latest stage in a the roller-coaster ride for the so-called "global license," which would let Internet users download as much copyrighted content as they like for a monthly fee of a few euros (dollars).

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres re-introduced the so-called "global license" after a drawn-out, late-night session Wednesday in the National Assembly.

Backed by many opposition Socialists as well as rebel lawmakers from the governing conservative Union for a Popular Movement, the amendment was adopted in a surprise vote in December amid heavy lobbying from consumer groups.

But the government deleted the amendment when it resubmitted the anti-piracy legislation for debate earlier this week.

Under fire from lawmakers, the culture minister reversed course early Thursday.

"I want there to be no ambiguity," and for the text to be submitted to thorough deliberation, he said.

The latest draft lightens the penalties for those caught pirating music or movies online. But it also strengthens legal protection for anti-copy software known as DRM, or digital rights management, shielding it from challenges under French laws that grant consumers the right to make copies of music and film for private use.

Consumer groups have cheered the legalized file-sharing measures, while the music industry is leading a backlash.

The online copyright bill is shaping up as a key test of the conservatives' ability to maintain party discipline in a pre-election year. A vote is not expected before March 14.