A French court on Friday, citing a legal technicality, rejected a claim brought by two children's associations that aimed to tighten access to some of the world's biggest porn websites.
Through their complaint against France's top telecom firms, the groups had hoped to block or further restrict children's access to nine top porn sites, including PornHub and Xvideos.
But the judge rejected the claim because the court had not been able to hear arguments from the sites' publishers, according to the country's telecoms trade body.
"It was unfortunately a loss of time since we cannot deny that there is a problem," France's telecoms federation managing director Michel Combot told Reuters.
He said the children's associations could turn to France's media watchdog to block illegal access to sites, and that operators would readily do so when instructed by a judge.
"As a network supplier, Orange is neutral and intends to remain so," added a spokesperson for Orange, which faced the claim alongside Free, SFR and Bouygues Telecom .
Orange added that it offered tools such as parental controls to limit children's access to online pornography.
'Not completely lost'
"It's not a completely lost battle," said Samuel Comblez of e-Enfance, one of the children's associations, adding that it was now examining other ways to restrict access to the sites.
He said current verification standards - ticking a box indicating the user is over 18 - make it too easy for children to access the websites. Comblez added that internationally hosted domains made applying existing rules more difficult.
Last June, both Pornhub and Xvideos were among the world's most visited websites according to market research firm Statista, which counts some 7.3 billion combined monthly visits - more than either Instagram, Amazon or Twitter.
Pornhub has come under fire for allegedly failing to remove images and videos of child rape and sexual abuse on the site -accusations it denies.
Pornhub, RedTube and YouPorn - all sites targeted in the claim - are owned by Luxembourg-based company MindGeek.