Legal challenges delay Digital Economy Act anti-piracy measures

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Legal challenges delay Digital Economy Act anti-piracy measures

Warwick Ashford

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed legal challenges have delayed the enforcement of the Digital Economy Act.

The anti-piracy legislation – which requires internet service providers to send warning letters to alleged infringers and impose sanctions including cutting them off – has been delayed by several legal challenges.

Although passed by the Labour government in 2010, the anti-piracy measures are unlikely to be enforced before 2014, according to the BBC.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), which has opposed the Act because it will force its members to police customer behaviour on the internet, welcomed the delay.

The organisation said the most effective solution to the problem of users accessing unlawful content is for reform of the licensing framework, so that legal content can be distributed online.

The Creative Coalition Campaign, which represents a host of rights holder representative bodies, has blamed the delay on the "delaying tactics" of BT and TalkTalk, according to Out-Law.com.

In March this year, BT and TalkTalk lost a two-year legal bid to have the Digital Economy Act overturned. They argued it was incompatible with European law and could result in an invasion of privacy, as well as run up disproportionate costs for ISPs and consumers.

In a judicial review ruling in April 2011, the High Court rejected claims by BT and TalkTalk. In March, the Court of Appeal rejected their claim that the DEA breached EU laws on data protection and privacy. 

The two ISPs failed to convince the Court of Appeal that the DEA was incompatible with provisions set out in the E-Commerce Directive.

However, the ISPs did successfully argue they should not be required to pay 25% of the case fees arising from ISP customers bringing appeals against warning letters received for infringing copyright.

The repeated delays have led some industry observers to speculate that the Act's measures will never come into force.

But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it is continuing to implement the Digital Economy Act. However, the department said the judicial review rulings had caused a delay.

The DCMS said that as a result of the review rulings, rules on cost-sharing and the related code of practice would have to be changed.


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