BT, TalkTalk lose DEA appeals

The UK government has been given the green light to implement the Digital Economy Act after the final legal challenge by BT and Talk Talk was thrown out at the Court of Appeal.

The two ISPs lost their appeal against last year’s judicial review of the government’s anti-piracy legislation on all but one ground. The ruling brings to an end almost two years of legal challenges against the legislation by the ISPs. The government is now able to begin sending out warning letters to UK internet users accused of illegal filesharing. The court of appeal ruling found that the Digital Economy Act is legal and compatible with European law.

The appeal judges ruled that the government could not make ISPs pay a proportion of the case fees attached to the act.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry, welcomed the ruling, saying: “The ISPs’ failed legal challenge has meant yet another year of harm to British musicians and creators from illegal filesharing.”

BT and TalkTalk had complained that the legislation was incompatible with European law and put an unfair burden on them to pay the costs of the rights-holders’ crackdown on illicit downloading.

Talk Talk said: “We’re disappointed that our appeal was unsuccessful though we welcome the additional legal clarity that has been provided for all parties. Though we have lost this appeal, we will continue fighting to defend our customers’ rights against this ill-judged legislation.”

BT said: “We have been seeking clarification from the courts that the DEA is consistent with European law, and legally robust in the UK, so that everyone can be confident in how it is implemented. Now that the court has made its decision, we will look at the judgement carefully to understand its implications and consider our next steps.”

Adam Rendle, copyright lawyer at Taylor Wessing commented: “The government and rights owners will view this as a significant victory in the fight against unlawful online file sharing. Parliament’s view on who should carry the burden of policing and preventing online copyright infringement has been upheld.

ISPs now have a role to play, as well as rights owners, in identifying the wrongdoer. But it is the rights owners who have to identify and prove the infringement.

We now have to wait for the Ofcom Initial Obligations Code to be published and approved before the warning letters start arriving on file sharers’ doormats.  The Code will contain the detail on how the process will work.

The government had already announced that the more controversial website blocking measures in the Digital Economy Act would not be introduced, but it would not be surprising to see public outcry at the warning letters process similar to that which greeted ACTA, SOPA etc.”

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