WEB users who illegally download music, films or TV shows could be ordered to pay damages to the rights-holder under a new measure added to France's Hadopi anti-piracy law.
Downloaders have until now faced a €1,500 fine or having their connection cut off if warning emails and letters were ignored and the case went to court.
The Senate and National Assembly have both voted in favour of a new element to the law that would allow record labels and film producers to register as a civil claimant in the case and claim compensation for their loss.
A judge would issue a court order under a simplified procedure similar to that used for minor driving offences. The accused would not be present at the hearing.
Since it launched in the new year, Hadopi has been keen to emphasise its preventative and educational role - encouraging web users to move towards legal downloads - instead of the repressive side of its work.
Hadopi was put in place to tackle internet piracy via a series of steps, beginning with an email asking users to stop, followed by a registered letter and eventually ending with the user's internet connection being cut off.
The scheme, which suffered several set backs in its legal formation, has been criticised because of the ease in which it is bypassed: users can mask their IP addresses and its focus on peer-to-peer sharing ignores the rise of online streaming sites which are increasingly used to show TV shows and films.