The full implementation of the music/film rights-holder-boosting Digital Economy Act has come a step closer with the decision to deny two ISPs the right to appeal against an earlier high court ruling, writes David Davies.
As previously reported on PSNE, BT and TalkTalk have been pursuing a judicial review into the UK Digital Economy Act on the grounds that the legislation – which was passed in the dying days of the last Government and aims to combat illegal downloading/filesharing – had received “insufficient” parliamentary scrutiny.
The ISPs also argued that some components of the act were potentially in conflict with European commerce and privacy law.
The judicial review was granted last autumn. On 21 April it was announced that only one of the ISPs’ objections – about enforcement costs – was to be upheld. The Government is currently in the process of reviewing the draft costs sharing order, but ISPs will definitely be obliged to pay a quarter of the price of mailing warning letters to internet users believed to be downloading copyrighted material illegally.
BT and TalkTalk – who believe that the legislation could compromise internet users’ “basic rights and freedoms” – quickly revealed their intention to carry on with their campaign. But on 21 June, Judge Sir Richard Buxton formally refused the ISPs’ application for an appeal against the findings of the review.
While the two companies have said they are now considering their position, the ruling undoubtedly brings the full implementation of the DEA a step closer. After several delays, the process of sending out warning letters to suspected copyright infringers is expected to commence in early 2012.
If the ultimate financial benefit of the DEA to rights-holders is impossible to calculate, what is beyond doubt is that the process of introducing the act has been extremely expensive. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act recently indicate that the legislation will have cost rights-holders, Ofcom and ISPs almost £6m by early next year.
Meanwhile, BT and TalkTalk face an estimated bill of £100,000 after being ordered to pay 93% of the Government’s legal fees accruing from the judicial review.