Digital Economy Act to get judicial reviewBT and TalkTalk concerned for 'rights' of users

11 November 2010

Digital Britain

BT and TalkTalk, two of the UK’s largest internet service providers, have successfully appealed for a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.

The act, which aims to curb illegal filesharing, was passed in April prior to the coalition government coming to power. BT and TalkTalk feel that the act was rushed through parliament, and are concerned that the ‘basic rights and freedoms’ of internet users are impinged upon.

Most controversial is the so-called ‘three strikes rule’, whereby users accused of illegal file sharing would be disconnected after three warnings about their online behaviour. This would be managed by ISPs, and ISPs would have to notify rights holders if certain account holders were logged as being persistent offenders. 

This wouldn’t mean that ISPs disclosed individual customer details, instead ISPs would give rights holders the IP addresses that they could then use to begin the process of identifying those customers through the courts. BT and TalkTalk are uncomfortable with this relationship with their customers, and feel it could lead to injustices.

Which? view

Deborah Prince, head of legal affairs at Which?, had this response:

‘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.

'Which? has been contacted by hundreds of people who claim to have been wrongly accused of illegal filesharing and are being asked to pay hundreds of pounds in compensation or face legal action. The 'three strikes and you are out' approach should stop these actions and provide a less aggressive, more helpful way for consumers to deal with such claims. 

'There should be points in this process where claims are assessed independently by experts – this is important as the technology and the law in these cases are complicated, so having a quick and “neutral” mediation forum will be a really important feature.'

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