People in the UK who go online and illegally download music and films may have their internet access cut under plans the government is considering.
A draft consultation suggests internet service providers would be required to take action over users who access pirated material.
But the government is stressing that plans are at an early stage and it is still working on final proposals.
Six million people a year are estimated to download files illegally in the UK.
Music and film companies say that the illegal downloads cost them millions of pounds in lost revenues.
The government proposals were first reported by the Times newspaper.
The Times suggested that broadband firms which failed to enforce the rules could be prosecuted, and the details of customers suspected of making illegal downloads made available to the courts.
According to the Times, the draft paper states: "We will move to legislate to require internet service providers to take action on illegal file sharing."
Some of the UK's biggest internet providers, such as BT, Virgin and Tiscali have been in talks with the entertainment industry over introducing a voluntary scheme for policing pirate activity, but no agreement has been reached.
So far, they have failed to resolve how disputed allegations would be arbitrated - for example, when customers claim other people have been "piggybacking" on their internet service.
The Internet Service Providers Association said data protection laws would prevent providers from looking at the content of information sent over their networks.
"ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope," the association said.
"ISPs bear no liability for illegal file sharing as the content is not hosted on their servers," it added.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that early drafts of the document had been circulated among stakeholders.
"The content and proposals for the strategy have been significantly developed since then and a comprehensive plan to bolster the UK's creative industries will be published shortly," it added.
"We will not comment on the content of the leaked document."