UK Digital Economy Act to be subject of a judicial review

TalkTalk and BT have succeeded in being granted a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act by the High Court.

The decision means that the courts will now investigate the controversial act and view whether it is legal and justifiable.

The pair argued back in July that the legislation had been “rushed through parliament” and voiced the concerns of many ISPs who said they were unhappy with part of the act that requires them to take action against suspected file sharers.

They also argued that smaller ISPs could benefit from having to grass up illegal filesharers as they would leave larger ISPs to avoid detection.  According to the Act, only  providers with more than 400,000 customers are subject to the rules

The pair even went as far as saying the Act contradicted EU directives on the nature of ISPs, which state that they are not responsible for how people use the internet connections they provide.

The judge today obviously agreed with some of the points made after its favourable decision to the ISPs.

Andrew Heaney, director of strategy and regulation at TalkTalk said he was “very pleased” that the High Court had recognised the concerns of ISPs.

“The act was rushed through parliament in the ‘wash-up’ with only six percent of MPs attending the brief debate and has very serious flaws,” he said.

“The provisions to try and reduce illegal file-sharing are unfair, won’t work and will potentially result in millions of innocent customers who have broken no law suffering and having their privacy invaded.”

BT also rejoiced with a spokesperson telling TechEye: “We are pleased that the Court has recognised that our concerns about the copyright infringement provisions in the Digital Economy Act should be considered in a full hearing. It is important for everyone involved – copyright owners, consumers, ISPs and institutions like libraries and universities – to have certainty on the law before proceeding.”

However, the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) is none too pleased about the decision, calling it “disappointing” that “a couple of ISPs are trying to frustrate this and resist any action being taken to reduce illegal file-sharing on their networks.”

A spokesperson said: “We continue to believe that their case is misconceived and will fail. The act remains in full force and we will continue to work with government, Ofcom and other stakeholders to implement it.”

Deborah Prince, Head of Legal Affairs at consumer watchdog magazine Which?, says:

“Instead of challenging digital initiatives, it would be good if all stakeholders – rights holders, ISPs and the legal profession – came together to make the process of graduated response advocated by the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) work.

“The DEB approach could benefit all concerned. Rights holders could get protection, consumers could get better education about file-sharing, and the courts could only be used for persistent offenders.”