The European Parliament has rejected attempts by EU governments to crackdown on illegal downloaders of music and film.
The measures were part of proposals to update Europe-wide telecommunications rules.
The EU assembly voted 407 to 57 to throw out a compromise reached with EU governments a few weeks ago that would have allowed France to cut off internet access to people who download illegal copies of movies or records.
Lawmakers reinstated an earlier demand that "no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of ... users, without prior ruling by the judicial authorities."
Viviane Reding, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner said the move was "an important restatement of the fundamental rights of EU citizens."
The vote blocks the approval of a wide-ranging package reforming telecommunications in the 27-nation European Union.
The package includes efforts to bolster privacy and consumer rights and to increase competition for internet and phone services.
Wednesday's move will force new negotiations with EU governments, officials said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing a 'three strikes and you're out' bill under which internet use would be tracked, and users caught downloading illegal copies would be warned twice before their internet access would be cut off for a year.
The French parliament rejected the proposal in April but is discussing it again.
Film and record labels are looking for better enforcement of copyright rules to protect profits that are shrinking in the face of online file-sharing, in which people swap music files without paying.
German Social Democrat parliamentarian Erika Mann said the Parliament had "clearly spoken out against Sarkozy's internet blocking policy."
Consumer groups also welcomed the move.
"The rejection ... is an important signal sent to consumers," said Monique Goyens, head of the European Consumers' Organisation BEUC. She said giving governments a free hand to cut off internet access would be "unacceptable."
"This clearly would have been a disproportionate and unfair penalty and we now call on the next Parliament to explicitly prohibit such a draconian law."
European lawmakers did back 12 other reforms meant to overhaul the telecoms market in Europe.
They include setting up a new EU-wide telecoms authority charged with ensuring fair competition by bolstering the right of consumers to switch mobile or landline telephone operators, and expanding digital networks to provide faster broadband internet services for users, notably in rural areas.Reuse content