ISPs May Appeal Ruling

British Telecom and TalkTalk are believed to be considering an appeal against the High Court ruling that blocked their bid to overturn the UK’s piracy-fighting Digital Economy Act.

The Internet service providers heard Mr. Justice Parker dismiss their claims that the Digital Ecomony Act is unlawful under privacy and e-commerce legislation, will have a disproportionate impact on business and the public, and that the government failed to properly notify the European Union.

Parker did agree that an order obliging ISPs to pay 25 percent of the costs of tracking illegal file sharers is unlawful.

An appeal looks likely on the grounds that the ruling came days after Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalón, an adviser to the European Court Of Justice, told its judges that filtering and blocking systems are a restriction on the right to privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data.

A TalkTalk spokesman said the company is reviewing “this long and complex judgment” and considering options including taking the matter to the Court of Appeal or at least requesting the Court of Appeal refers it to the European Court of Justice.

“Though we may have lost this particular battle, we will continue fighting to defend our customers’ rights against this ill-judged legislation,” he said.

The High Court ruling drew an enthusiastic response from British Phonographic Industries chief exec Geoff Taylor, who told the Daily Telegraph it gives the green light to tackle illegal downloading.

“It confirms that the DEA is proportionate and consistent with European law,” he said. “Shareholders and customers of BT and TalkTalk might ask why so much time and money has been spent challenging an Act of Parliament to help reduce the illegal traffic on their networks.”

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has already said it will immediately press ahead with sending letters to suspected illegal downloaders.

Organisations such as the BPI can now monitor unlawful file-sharing via networks and make lists of IP addresses.

These lists will be passed to the ISPs, who will use them to identify the broadband accounts involved. They will then be obliged to write to those customers to warn them against copyright infringement and provide information about licensed alternatives.

The DEA can also force ISPs to restrict Internet access to persistent infringers.

Communications regulator Ofcom is setting up a tribunal system to hear appeals from those who claim they’ve been falsely accused.