UK court to review controversial online copyright infringement act

[JURIST] The UK High Court on Wednesday granted a request to review the nation's Digital Economy Act [text and materials], which is aimed at the prevention of online copyright infringement. The claim [text, PDF] was filed by UK Internet service providers (ISPs) BT Group PLC and TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC [corporate websites] in July in response to the legislation being rushed through parliament by the previous Labour government just weeks before the general election in May. BT and TalkTalk claim that the bill was not given adequate scrutiny before its passage and may require certain amendments in order to comply with EU rules [press release] on privacy and policing by ISPs. The ISPs also claim [press release] that Internet users are already moving away from peer-to-peer (P2P) content sharing and that "[t]he measures in the [legislation] will hasten the migration away from P2P, ignite the development of new tools and popularise the notion that stealing content is socially acceptable." The court did not disclose a time frame for the review.

The UK Parliament [official website] approved the legislation [JURIST report] in April authorizing the suspension of Internet service for those who repeatedly download copyrighted material illegally. The act also received Royal Assent [text] and is now law. The law calls on ISPs to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds and ultimately shut down a user's Internet access in order to prevent piracy of copyrighted materials. The bill, known as a three-strikes law, imposes stricter penalties on repeat digital offenders than had previously existed, and has received a great deal of public criticism. Despite the controversy over the legislation, MPs who support it say it is a necessary step to protect the creators of digital content. Last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced that Britain's intellectual property laws will undergo a review [JURIST report] with an eye towards modernization, in an effort to encourage innovation and small business. Cameron suggested that the law may be reformed in order to allow for increased use of copyright material without the owner's permission. The announcement, seen as an attempt to restore balance after the controversial Digital Economy Act, has been cheered by Internet freedom campaigners and small businesses alike.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.