As no doubt you have heard by now, four out of the five judicial review claims on the Digital Economy Act brought to court by BT and TalkTalk have been dismissed. BT and TalkTalk argued that the Digital Economy Act was illegal under privacy and e-commerce laws, that the impact on business was disproportionate, and that the UK failed to notify the EU of the impending implementation of the law. Mr Justice Parker ruled today that all of these issues were not feasible reasons to deem the Digital Economy Act illegal except for the cost order which mandates that ISPs pay 25% of the charges incurred in implementation. A review of this cost order will now take place.
We at Big Brother Watch are disappointed in this ruling. Our very own Dan Hamilton said today,
The Digital Economy Act represents a worrying incursion on Internet users' personal privacy and freedom of access to information. This ruling will force Internet Service Providers, for fear of being prosecuted, to impose strict controls on the type of web services their users may or may not access. While illegal copyright infringement is a serious problem which must be tackled, expanding government control over the internet is a hugely regressive step.
The Open Rights Group, along with other campaigners are equally concerned about the issues of privacy and legitimacy surrounding the implementation of the Digital Economy Act. The full ruling can be found here.
Though BT and TalkTalk may appeal the decision, the wheels are now in motion for the current government to enact the Digital Economy Act that was passed in the waning days of the last Labour administration. There are several significant points to be made about the DEA in addition to all of the problems surrounding its implementation. The entire Digital Economy Act is not at issue here and in fact many aspects of the DEA are positive like the arrangement of the spectrum auction happening next year. However, the part of the DEA involving what to do about illegal file sharing and digital copyright breaches is at issue. First, the implementation of this will mean that the government is forcing ISPs to fundamentally shift their business practices, shift investment away from next generation technologies and relay the additional costs of all of this to the customer.
The second, and more concerning issue, is that the government will be involved in regulating the Internet and impacting the privacy of individuals on the Internet. With the implementation of the DEA in full swing, the government will become the ultimate decision maker in who gets to be online and who has their service terminated as well as whose privacy is breached in order to serve the needs of copyright holders. The government is playing the broker in Internet access and the middleman in between copyright holders and copyright violators. And we know how well that is working out for France.