UK ISPs Take Digital Economy Act to High Court

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Two of the UK's leading Internet service providers are teaming up to challenge the Digital Economy Act. TalkTalk and BT say they want the High Court to examine whether the Act, which was rushed through before the recent general election, was passed without going through the correct parliamentary procedures.

In early April the UK Government forced through the controversial Digital Economy Bill after its third reading and just two hours debate. Complaints that the legislation was far too important to be passed through during the last minute ‘wash-up’ period were ignored, and the Digital Economy Act was born.

“It’s our belief that this haste meant the Digital Economy Bill, as it then was, became law without being properly scrutinised and without its impact being properly assessed,” writes TalkTalk boss Charles Dunstone today.

TalkTalk, which has been speaking out against both the Bill and Act from the beginning, intends to carry on its opposition by hopefully taking its argument to the High Court with the support of a rival ISP.

“Today, in conjunction with BT, we’ve filed papers with the High Court asking for a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act,” says Dunstone. “We’ve asked the High Court to look at whether the Act was passed into law without going through the correct parliamentary procedures.”

TalkTalk also believes that there could be incompatibilities between provisions in the Act and the E-Commerce Directive which restricts the obligations of ISPs. Other areas concerning subscriber privacy could also be problematic, with Dunstone noting that the measures in the Act designed to prevent file-sharing could undermine “the basic rights and freedoms of citizens.”

“As a result, we’re seeking clarity from the Court before we and other industry players are asked to implement the Act,” says Dunstone. “We want to avoid a situation where we invest tens of millions of pounds in new systems and processes only to find that the Act is unenforceable and the money wasted.”

In recent times, TalkTalk has sought to protect its subscribers from outside interference and is the only mainstream ISP in the UK to stand up to ACS:Law and its campaign against alleged file-sharers. In advance of ACS:Law going to court to obtain the real identities of individuals behind IP addresses it has harvested, the law firm approaches ISPs and asks them if they will contest the court action.

TalkTalk always refuses to comply and is therefore never included in court documents. This means that TalkTalk subscribers are protected from all the wrongful accusations documented dozens of times in recent months. The same, however, can not be said about BT. When approached by ACS:Law, BT indicates in advance that it will cooperate, which means its customers become heavily targeted.

Support TalkTalk on this too, BT, and then your subscribers will really take you seriously.


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