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Copyright crackdown delayed by judicial review

The implementation of the Digital Economy Act, a piece of legislation designed in part to crack down on unlawful file-sharing, is being severely delayed by a judicial review.The High Court review is being carried out at the behest of BT and TalkTalk, who say the Act falls foul of EU laws on privacy and ISP obligations.

The implementation of the Digital Economy Act, a piece of legislation designed in part to crack down on unlawful file-sharing, is being severely delayed by a judicial review.

The High Court review is being carried out at the behest of BT and TalkTalk, who say the Act falls foul of EU laws on privacy and ISP obligations. According to the original schedule for the Act's implementation, Ofcom is already supposed to have published an obligations code, telling ISPs what they will have to do to help rights holders identify infringers, but the judicial review has delayed this occurring.

The obligations code is supposed to precede a year-long letter-writing campaign, in which suspected unlawful file-sharers are warned that their misdeeds have been spotted and logged. Once that year is over, the government is then supposed to examine the results. If online copyright infringement has not been sufficiently cut by that point, a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy is then supposed to kick in.

According to the original schedule, punitive measures — perhaps including account suspension — are supposed to begin towards the end of this year. Given that Ofcom has not even published its obligations code yet, this is not going to happen.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that "no precise date has been set for the publication of the code [and the DCMS will] continue to work with Ofcom, and the code will be published as soon as possible".

The DCMS spokesman said the department is aiming to have the first notification letters "go out in the first half of next year".

"Since the [Act] passed into law there has been a considerable amount of work to do to implement the mass notification system. Secondary legislation setting out how the system will be paid for and how it will work have to be passed by Parliament. Ofcom also has to set up an appeals process," the spokesman said.

"We are working to implement the system as soon as possible. Our principal concern is to establish a system that works and provides the UK's creative industries with the tools they need to protect their hard-work and investment. We will not rush this important task."