Vaizey Says ISPs’ High Court Challenge Is ‘Odd’

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Communications Minister Ed Vaizey is not amused by High Court challenges from BT and TalkTalk to the DEA

A high court challenge to the Digital Economy Act by BT and TalkTalk was yesterday branded “odd” by  Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.

He also said their failure to get the legislation overturned was testament to those who put the Act together.

Speaking at the Intellect technology conference in London yesterday, Vaizey said: “The attitude of the ISPs is quite odd. BT has spent so much time litigating against an act of parliament and fallen at every hurdle, which is a great endorsement of the work officials did in putting the Act together.”

The Act made the headlines when it was passed in April 2010 with its provisions to cut off repeat filesharers’ internet access and for politicians to block websites involved in piracy.

BT and TalkTalk launched a judicial review of the DEA in the High Court last year claiming it was rushed through in the last days of the Labour government and not thoroughly considered.

However, this and a subsequent appeal were eventually rejected.

Policing the internet

The DEA seeks to stimulate the British digital economy, partly by reducing internet piracy, and places more responsibility on ISPs for policing their users, something BT and Talk Talk were opponents of.

Vaizy also said: “What we are trying to do is encourage rights holders and ISPs to work together. I am keen to protect our content industries as I think people should be able to earn money from the content they make, as laid out in the Digital Economy Act – and the Government should do what it can to protect them.”

The website blocking clause was removed during parliamentary readings but was replaced with another that allowed the Secretary of State for Business to block any site which “the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright.”

Implications

The act paves the way for blocking of indexing sites that merely link to unlicensed content without hosting any material.

Whether this is illegal in the UK has been a source of debate, with a case against TV-Links being thrown out of court in February last year amid doubts that the site had broken any laws by linking to unlicensed content.

The US however has already pledged to hunt down those who link to illegal streaming sites, claiming anyone anywhere in the world with a .com or .net address falls within their jurisdiction as those domains are routed through American internet infrastructure company Verisign.

Indeed, it is currently seeking the extradition of a 23-year-old British student behind TVShack.net, which linked to thousands of film and TV show hosted elsewhere but not in the US. He could face five years in a US prison.

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) is also currently seeking an injunction against BT, the UK’s largest ISP, to block access to file sharing site Newzbin. A ruling is not expected until the end of July.

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