High Court to review Digital Economy Act

ISPs and privacy campaigners who say that the copyright law falls foul of EU regulations have won a review from the High Court

BT and TalkTalk have won a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act, which they say falls foul of EU laws on privacy and internet service providers' responsibilities.

The High Court granted the judicial review, which was requested in July, on Wednesday. TalkTalk regulatory chief Andrew Heaney welcomed the news, saying it would make it possible to "properly assess whether the act is legal and justifiable and so ensure that all parties have certainty on the law before proceeding".

"We are very pleased that the court has recognised that our concerns about the copyright-infringement provisions in the Digital Economy Act should be considered in a full hearing," said Heaney in a statement. "The act was rushed through Parliament in the 'wash-up' with only six percent of MPs attending the brief debate and has very serious flaws.

"The provisions to try to reduce illegal file-sharing are unfair, won't work and will potentially result in millions of innocent customers who have broken no law suffering and having their privacy invaded," continued Heaney.

The Digital Economy Act established a new copyright-enforcement framework that forces large ISPs to pass on the details of customers who are suspected of unlawful file-sharing to rights holders, after they have committed repeated infractions. The act was passed following a brief period of parliamentary debate, in the so-called 'wash-up' — a time of accelerated law-making — that preceded the general election.

The Conservatives backed the Digital Economy Act, but the Liberal Democrats took a strong stance against it. However, despite the Lib Dems being part of the coalition government, that opposition has not translated into any official attempt to reverse the law.

The Open Rights Group, which campaigned against the Digital Economy Act, welcomed Wednesday's news. "We are extremely glad that judges will be taking a look at the Digital Economy Act, which we believe breaches people's rights to freedom of expression and privacy," executive director Jim Killock said in a statement. "The act is a mess and badly needs repealing. Judicial review may give the government the chance to drop this heavy-handed approach to copyright enforcement."