The government has revealed it will not terminate the internet connection of web users accused of illegal file-sharing.

Under measures to tackle internet piracy set out in the Digital Economy Bill, and heavily backed by Lord Mandelson, a three-strikes rule would see those accused of illegal downloading issued with warning letters and emails.

Repeat offenders faced disconnection the web.

In a response to a petition on the Number 10 website that called for the abandonment of "Lord Mandelson's plans to ban individuals from the internet based on their use of 'peer to peer' file sharing", the government said it "will not terminate the accounts of infringers".

"It is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme - and therefore probably criminal - cases," the government said.

"We added account suspension to the list of possible technical measures which might be considered if our measures to tackle unlawful file-sharing through notifications and legal action are not as successful as we hope."

The government revealed that 'technical measures' that could be implemented if web users continue to offend would be in the form of "a bandwidth restriction, a daily downloading limit or, as a last resort, temporary account suspension".

"This is but one of a number of possible options on which we would seek advice from Ofcom - and others - if we decided to consider a third obligation on technical measures," the government said.

It also said there would be "a rapid and robust route of appeal available to all consumers if we decided technical measures were needed".

However TalkTalk, which has campaigned heavily for the government to abandon plans to cut off illegal files-sharers, slammed the latest announcement.

"The Government's latest announcement on its copyright protection proposals is nothing more than semantics," said Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk's director of strategy and regulation.

"All the Government seems to be saying is that permanent disconnection will be reserved for the very worst offenders. But they have been saying that since day one. There is no change."

Heaney said the system designed to identify illegal downloaders will implicate innocent people whose connections have been hacked into and they will still be deemed 'guilty' and then have to prove their innocence.

"The Digital Economy Bill will give rights holders the power to act as a judge and jury, allowing them to demand that ISPs disconnect their customers without having to prove their case in a court of law," he said.

"The proposed copyright protection measures are utterly futile. Determined files-harers will find other, undetectable ways to access material, leaving innocent people to bear the brunt of this oppressive legislation."