Minister: ISPs are obstructive. Virgin: this isn’t the only way

Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, has criticised the continued legal action by ISPs BT and TalkTalk in respect of implementing aspects of the Digital Economy Act.

Vaizey, in a keynote speech at the Intellect Consumer Electronics Conference in London, noted that in cross-industry discussions his department had facilitated on combating the threat of websites that illegally provided access to copyright material, rights holders wanted a procedure that made the court process as smooth as possible, but had met resistance from the major ISPs. “I find their attitude quite odd – litigating against an Act of Parliament,” he said. “We’re trying to encourage ISPs and rights holders to work together.

He also noted parallel efforts in the US to address the issue. “If a voluntary agreement comes out of the US, it’ll be a game-changer,” he declared.

BT and TalkTalk were refused permission on June 20th to appeal against their failed legal challenge of the Digital Economy Act. They were seeking to overturn a high court judicial review of the legislation at the court of appeal.

At the same event Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett said blocking could be part of the solution but he still had reservations. “I think site blocking is a possible part of the overall solution, but it’s not the solution. How do we go about ensuring it’s the right sites are being blocked? What is the process we go through so we don’t unnaturally block supply? There’s a lot to consider over the legalities of it all,” he said

“You must have a regime that a) sees the right site is blocked and b) it is blocked by everybody; there can’t be any Robin Hoods of the internet ISPs saying, ‘No, I’m with the other side’,” he continued.

The comments come after Vaizey had to deny that secret meetings had taken place to rush a website blocking proposal through government. The government plans to send thousands of warning letters to alleged illegal downloaders – a measure introduced by the act – are set to begin in the first half of next year.

A spokesman for the two litigating ISPs said: “We are now considering our position. We still believe that the Digital Economy Act measures aimed at preventing online copyright infringement are inconsistent with European law. Following the decision of Lord Justice Buxton earlier this week we have asked the Court of Appeal for an oral hearing of our application for permission to appeal.”

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