British telecoms want court action on anti-piracy act

Two U.K. Internet service providers are none too pleased with the backhanded way Parliament passed an anti-piracy bill, and have asked the High Court to weigh in.

At issue is the Digital Economy Act, a sweeping bill that, among other things, requires ISPs to disconnect and blacklist illegal file sharers after multiple infractions. Telecoms, notably TalkTalk and BT, have opposed this idea since the beginning, as it requires them — and not the entertainment industry — to spend money on enforcement.

British telecoms want court action on anti-piracy act

TalkTalk and BT say the act was passed too quickly, coming up just before Parliament dissolved, the BBC reports. Parliament members supposedly didn’t have enough time to understand the details of the bill or debate it thoroughly, and now the telecoms want the High Court to clarify whether the act is legal. Specifically, they want to hear whether the Digital Economy Act conflicts with European Union legislation, which says ISPs should not be held responsible for the traffic on their networks.

ADVERTISEMENT

The ISPs aren’t just worried about the cost of enforcement — I suspect those costs would be passed on to customers — they’re afraid that “large swaths” of customers will move to smaller ISPs, which don’t have to enforce the proposed rules, according to TalkTalk Executive Director Andrew Heaney. Only ISPs with more than 400,000 customers must pay for copyright enforcement.

During election season, there was some talk of repealing the Digital Economy Act. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was among those who said the act needed to be repealed, but now the new government seems unwilling to do so.

Nonetheless, pirates needn’t worry for a little while. Disconnection won’t be enforceable until 2012, and there could be new legislation and more discussion on the act before then. Still, it’s a shame that the bill was rushed through into law without adequate debate and public commenting.

ADVERTISEMENT