Big ISPs challenge the U.K. Digital Economy Act

The UK Digital Economy Act is supposed to usher Britain into the digital age. Despite having many opponents (certain MPs, law enforcement agents, ISPs, companies like Google and privacy and human rights advocates), it finally received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, which automatically made it a law.

Big ISPs have particularly much to lose if the act stays in place, so it’s no wonder, then, that BT and TalkTalk – two of the biggest ones in the U.K. – have filed a motion with the High Court for a judicial review of the controversial act.

They argue that the act was “rushed through” parliament during the wash-up period (the last few days before the Parliament is dissolved before the general election) and that that rush shortened the examination and debate time essential to a thorough analysis of the implications of such a law.

The also want the High Court to give its opinion on whether the act and its provisions regarding illegal file-sharing encroach on the basic rights and freedoms of individuals, whether it is in conflict with EU laws or privacy and electronic communication regulations, BBC reports.

The ISPs have probably waited this long to ask for a judicial review because they hoped that the current government would exercise the right to revoke the act, but they have been spurned into action by the government’s admission that they are not planning to do so.

“We believe measures are consistent with EU legislation and that there are enough safeguards in place to protect the rights of consumers and ISPs and will continue to work on implementing them,” the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills offered in a statement regarding the matter.

BT and TalkTalk are worried that the act will put undue stress on their business activity. The cost of warning persistent file-sharers by letter and of keeping a blacklist that can be used by copyright owners to sue the pirates falls on the ISPs, but the thing that they are mostly worried about is that the loss of customers. Since the obligation of doing these two things applies only to ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers, customers may prefer to take their business to smaller ISPs to avoid detection.

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