BT and Talk Talk lose file-sharing appeal

BT logo BT and Talk Talk say the Digital Economy Act risks infringing user privacy

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BT and Talk Talk have lost an appeal over controversial measures to tackle copyright infringement online.

The internet service providers (ISPs) had argued the UK's Digital Economy Act was incompatible with EU law.

The Act will mean ISPs will have to send warning letters to alleged illegal file downloaders, as well as potentially cutting users off.

The creative industry argues that piracy costs £400m a year in lost revenue.

The firms' lawyers said the stricter measures could result in an invasion of privacy and run up disproportionate costs for both ISPs and consumers.

In a statement, Talk Talk said it was now "considering our options".

"We're disappointed that our appeal was unsuccessful though we welcome the additional legal clarity that has been provided for all parties," the company said.

"Though we have lost this appeal, we will continue fighting to defend our customers' rights against this ill-judged legislation."

A spokesman for 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 judgment carefully to understand its implications and consider our next steps."

Start Quote

It wouldn't be surprising to see a lot more public outcry”

End Quote Adam Rendle Copyright lawyer
'Stop fighting'

The decision was welcomed by copyright advocates.

Christine Payne, general secretary of the Actors' union Equity, called on the ISPs to "stop fighting and start obeying the law".

"Once again the court is on the side of the almost two million workers in the creative industries whose livelihoods are put at risk because creative content is stolen on a daily basis," she said.

However Loz Kaye, the leader of the UK Pirate Party, argued there was no proof the measures outlined in the Act - such as cutting off users - aided the fight against illegal file-sharing.

"This decision brings the draconian Digital Economy Act another step closer," he said.

"The coalition government must be clear now once and for all on whether it supports this anti-internet piece of legislation.

"No-one has proved that the Act will help the creative industries financially, that is just lobbyists' spin.

"A recent study on a similar system in France suggests that there is no benefit for music sales. Threats to chuck entire households off the web will be bad for the economy, bad for society - and for us as a creative nation too."

'Proper scrutiny'

Adam Rendle, a copyright specialist at international law firm Taylor Wessing, said he expected BT and Talk Talk to now appeal to the UK's Supreme Court.

He added that it was also likely the companies would step up lobbying efforts, perhaps harnessing support from groups recently protesting against the US Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the EU's proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta).

"We know how keen internet users are to protect what they see as freedom of speech," Mr Rendle told the BBC.

"When the Digital Economy Act itself was passed in the dying stages of the Labour government, there was a huge amount of disquiet that this kind of important legislation was being introduced without proper scrutiny.

"That kind of disquiet didn't result in the kind of action we've seen against Acta and Sopa. It wouldn't be surprising to see a lot more public outcry than there was when the Act was first passed."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Copyright infringement has blossomed on the Internet, many authors often unaware that their rights have been stolen, Also, cowboy companies seem quite unaware of their own illegalities, thinking that somehow the Internet is a total free for all and not subject to the law. They are quite wrong. The law needs to be properly policed and enforced, the culprits caught..

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    A classic case of closing the stable doors after the horse has bolted.Rather than imposing a law that can't possibly work why don't those content makers make their work available at a reasonable price to start with?Charging £15 plus for a CD or more for film will do little to discourage piracy.Its not like the big comps such as Sony etc are loss making,they just pay to much to the so called stars

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    A case of Big Brother UK Government AGAIN controlling the way we live our lives and our freedom. This idiotic law is not going to change anything, people will just use unprotected Networks or free Wifi at restaurants etc. We are not stupid Mr Cameron and Co, this is just another excuse to allow snooping on our privacy. We hardly have freedom and democracy anymore here in the UK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Good to hear this.

    The sooner this organised theft of other people's livelyhoods is tackled the better.

    It really needs criminal sanctions so that proper action can be taken against the dross who are already discussing how they will get round this law and continue their theft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Copyright breach is a civil matter not a criminal one.
    Essentially what's happened here is that the media companies have lobbied hard to get others to do their enforcement for them.
    The punishment or terminating a broadband connection is over the top and very general. Criminal punishments are very specific, but civil matters don't have to comply to the same standard. This ruling is a mess.


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