BT and TalkTalk DEA appeals denied

Signing a document

BT and TalkTalk lost an appeal today against certain elements of the Digital Economy Act (DEA), pushing controversial laws closer to reality.

The ISPs had concerns over various rules in the DEA, taking umbrage with requirements to send warning notices to people sharing files illegally or cut them off from the internet entirely.

BT and TalkTalk launched an appeal last year, raising concerns that the laws might result in invasions of privacy and cost ISPs money, which would therefore impact customers.

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

They claimed the Act also breached the EU Electronic Commerce Directive and the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, claims that were dismissed by the High Court in April.

TalkTalk said it was disappointed its appeal was unsuccessful but welcomed "the additional legal clarity that has been provided for all parties."

"We are reviewing this long and complex judgement and are considering our options," the company said. "Though we have lost this appeal we will continue fighting to defend our customers' rights against this ill-judged legislation."

BT said it was to "look at the judgment carefully to understand its implications and consider our next steps."

Clarity case?

As TalkTalk noted, the case has complex ramifications and clarity over what ISPs will now have to do under law remains in question.

Dominique Lazanski, head of digital policy at the TaxPayers Alliance, said the ruling made matters a little clearer, but there remained ambiguity over implementation of the DEA.

"Though the court ruling is disappointing, BT and TalkTalk always say that they won't website block without a court judgement or court ruling. This judgement provides more legal certainty though it isn't ideal," Lazanski told IT Pro.

"However, ISPs and rights holders continue to talk in round table sessions and this is continues to be a good approach. We are likely to see some legislative proposals on this issue in the Communications Bill green paper and that will, I hope, clarify a number of issues left hanging by the lack of DEA implementation."

Rights groups have continued to complain about the DEA and have called on the Government to make amendments to the Act before it is used by authorities.

There is one thing the court cannot tell us: that this is a good law. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport had no evidence when they wrote this Act, except for the numbers they were given by a couple of industry trade bodies. This is a policy made on hearsay and assumptions, not proper facts or analysis," said Peter Bradwell of the Open Rights Group.

"Weak evidence could be used to penalise people accused of copyright infringement. And people will have to pay 20 for the privilege of defending themselves against these accusations.

"The Government needs to correct these errors with a proper, evidence-based review of the law."

Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK, labelled the DEA "draconian."

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

"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 at all for music sales. Threats to chuck entire households off the web will be bad for the economy, bad for society - and bad for us as a creative nation too."

Welcome in

Others have been more receptive to today's announcement. Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) said it marked "a step forward in stakeholders taking on board to some degree some responsibility the fight against piracy."

"We must not erode the perception of value in digital product to where all online product is considered free'," Hobbins said.

"The news means effectively that no longer does the Act reside in the hands of the court and that means the intellectual property rights of a great many businesses, the fruits of labour, now have the option to benefit from the DEA mechanism if required. The central issue is growth and prosperity at this time."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.