France has become the latest country to reject legislation that would have targeted people who illegally download music or films.

French legislators on Thursday unexpectedly rejected a bill that would have allowed internet service providers to cut the internet connections of illegal downloaders after "three strikes," or three offences. The legislation also would have created the world's first government agency to track and punish those who steal content online.

The bill initially passed in the lower house of parliament last week, but was voted down in the National Assembly when few legislators turned up to finalize the measure. The bill was defeated by a vote of 21-15.

The music and film industry had supported the legislation, but critics said it would encroach on personal freedoms and be difficult to enforce.

In March, New Zealand pulled back from enacting similar legislation over concerns from both the government and privacy advocates.

"Allowing Section 92A to come into force in its current format would not be appropriate given the level of uncertainty around its operation," Commerce Minister Simon Power said in a statement on March 23.

In January the United Kingdom's intellectual property minister David Lammy told the Times his government had dropped a similar three-strikes approach as it crafts its own copyright legislation.

Canada is working on its own copyright legislation and is negotiating an international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with a group of countries that include New Zealand, the European Union, the U.S. and other nations around the world.

Canada's minority Conservative government indicated as part of its election platform that it plans to reintroduce copyright reform to replace Bill C-61, a copyright reform bill introduced last spring that died when the election was called in the fall.

That bill did not include a three-strikes rule, but included other measures some viewed as more restrictive. For example, while the New Zealand act allows librarians to circumvent some digital locks on behalf of consumers, the Canadian bill proposed banning the breaking of digital locks altogether.

With files from the Associated Press