Top French Court Declares Internet Access 'Basic Human Right'

France's highest court has inflicted an embarrassing blow to President Sarkozy by cutting the heart out of a law that was supposed to put France in the forefront of the fight against piracy on the internet.

The Constitutional Council declared access to the internet to be a basic human right, directly opposing the key points of Mr Sarkozy's law, passed in April, which created the first internet police agency in the democratic world.

The strongly-worded decision means that Mr Sarkozy's scheme has backfired and inadvertently boosted those who defend the free-for-all culture of the web.

Mr Sarkozy and Christine Albanel, his Culture Minister, forced the law through parliament despite misgivings from many of the President's centre-right MPs. It was rejected in its first passage through Parliament.

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