Ever since college kids started putting digitized music tracks on public FTP servers, the recording industry has been relying on legal might, bluster and intimidation to protect its music from illicit Internet distribution. From suing college kids to taking little old grandmothers to court, the industry has pushed the if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-against-us meme far and near. And it has spent big bucks doing so.

But another method for stopping illicit distribution of copyright works is now gaining traction. And when you compare it to the past few years of lawsuits, publicity stumbles and bad press, you just gotta wonder if record company execs are slapping themselves, saying, “Why didn’t we think of that?”

In this case, “that” is a variation of those “three strikes” laws. Specifically, if you receive repeated warnings about distributing copyrighted material, your ISP will disconnect you from the Internet.

France was the first country to consider cutting off access to repeated copyright offenders. At first it seemed like another draconian measure promoted by politicians unable to distinguish between gigabytes and music gigs. But after numerous online tech and music blogs denounced France’s efforts, another opinion started to emerge. An opinion that cutting off copyright bandits just might work.

And now Britain is considering such a method for its own copyright thieves, and politicians are suggesting a simple system that could easily be exported to the U.S. Or, for that matter, to just any country in the world.

One potential problem is the same one that results in those grannies receiving pay-up-or-be-sued notices from the RIAA. No matter who may be doing the infringing, it’s the owner of the account who will probably be targeted. However, it’s easy to imagine account holders cracking down on whoever is the actual music thief once they receive that first notice.

The idea is to reach a voluntary agreement between ISPs and the entertainment industry so that repeated offenders are the ones who are cut off. A voluntary agreement is preferable over a government’s decree, if only because there’s no telling what would happen if politicians start mucking about in the entertainment industry’s affairs. Or, for that matter, the ISP industry.

So far, the big solutions pushed to end, or at least limit, copyright infringement have been filters and lawsuits. But if past experiences are any indication, there won’t be a filter strong enough, or smart enough, to prevent distribution of copyrighted material while at the same time green light the distribution of legitimate, licensed content. No matter how tough someone designs a filter, there’s always someone out there ready and willing to defeat it.

And lawsuits aren’t any bargain either. If they were, the recording industry would have proved its point years ago and there wouldn’t still be widespread infringements committed daily across the planet.

But just cutting the thieves off could be THE solution to end years of copyright infringements, not to mention the rapid decline of record company coffers. For those who are cut off it would be like owning a car, but not having a driver’s license. These days a computer is pretty useless if you don’t have that connection to the Net.