Digital Economy Act to be reconsidered

Influence of the industry

Broadband providers BT and Talk Talk have won the right to a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act (DEA). The bill was controversially fast-tracked through parliament in April 2010, with only six per cent of MPs in attendance during a short debate. The two UK companies initiated their challenge in July, alleging that the act received "insufficient scrutiny".

Moreover, the changes to the law were deemed to compromise "basic rights and freedoms". At the heart of the controversy was the amendment to clause eight, that would permit the court to block or disconnect any IP address or website without trial, if it was suspected of persistent file sharing or copyright infringement. This would include the file sharing sites themselves, and uploaded content on public sites such as YouTube videos or social media content.

Review and redraft

The decision to take action against illegal file sharing will not, however, be scrapped, as online copyright infringement costs the UK's digital economy £400 million a year. The current act is to be examined in detail against existing EU legislation, on points including data protection, privacy, e-commerce and human rights. The High Court judicial proceedings will commence in February 2011.

Charged with writing the DEA rulebook, Ofcom is finalising the draft proposals put forward in May. The tentative legislation made broadband providers responsible for collecting the personal details of users in breach of the law, and sending warning letters.

Any user receiving 'three strikes' in 12 months would then be taken to court, and have their connection blocked. Earlier this month, record label Ministry of Sound had to back down in a case against 25,000 internet users suspected of copyright infringement, when BT allegedly deleted their personal details.