New UK file sharing law challenged by ISPs in court

Summary:Two major ISPs are at the UK high court to challenge elements of the new counter-piracy laws, that relate to illegal file-sharers.

ISPs in England are challenging parts of the Digital Economy Act, which targets illegal downloaders and file-sharers.

BT and TalkTalk, both leaders in the broadband marketshare in the UK, are at the High Court today, arguing that elements of the bill were rushed through parliament last year without adequate scrutiny.

Under the current law, film and music providers can monitor illegal activity on peer-to-peer networks and collate IP addresses of those who infringe copyright. They can then apply to a court to force an ISP to hand over the name and billing address of the person alleged to have downloaded illegal content.

But there have been several cases where people were wrongly accused of illegally downloading copyrighted material.

In the United States, however, recent legal proceedings states that an 'IP address does not equal a person', referring to co-habitants and student households in particular.

A similar principle is hoped to be applied in the UK, with the ISPs in court hoping to clear up the definitions of the act, arguing that an IP address does not identify the particular user but only the location of where the alleged infringement occurred.

Yet more and more people are resorting to upload sites and checking links on blogs to download music and films, instead of using peer-to-peer networks where users are becoming more aware of the risks involved.

The bill was passed shortly before the new government was formed, during what is known as the 'wash up' period, where outstanding bills and legislation are cleared up and voted on before Parliament is dissolved.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Networking, Telcos


Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.

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