The UK government has said it wants a new law by April 2009 obliging ISPs to stop illegal file sharing on their networks, marking one of the most aggressive stances yet in Europe to counter Internet piracy.

In the meantime, the government said it will look at "statutory solutions" that could be used until a law is in place, as well as tougher penalties for copyright infringement.

The warnings came in a report released Friday from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which looks at how the UK's creative industries can be better supported.

In the UK, ISPs have been in voluntary discussions with copyright holders on ways to combat file sharing on P-to-P (peer-to-peer) networks but so far have not reached an agreement.

If no agreement is reached, "the government will equip itself to introduce legislation swiftly if suitable arrangements between ISPs and relevant sectors are not forthcoming or prove insufficient," the report said.

That kind of legislation would essentially require ISPs to examine what content a subscriber is downloading, opening a range of privacy concerns.

Representatives of the UK's Internet Service Providers' Association could not be reached for comment, but the ISP industry generally opposes measures that would require monitoring of content on their networks.

That view is supported in existing in European Union and UK directives, which says ISPs are not liable for material passing on their networks.