By Ben Simmons

The Federation Against Software Theft has welcomed the news that the anti-piracy fight may be re-started on peer-2-peer and similar technologies after BT and TalkTalk lost their appeal over Digital Economy Act (DEA) measures to tackle copyright infringement online.

“The ISPs originally challenged the Act on the grounds of ‘basic rights and freedoms’ and that the legislation did not receive sufficient scrutiny in the wash-up period before the General Election. A review then led in turn to rights holders being blocked from using the anti piracy provisions of the DEA," stated stated Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, at FAST.

"However, this decision means both BT and TalkTalk have lost their appeal, which is a step forward in stakeholders taking on board to some degree some responsibility the fight against piracy. We must not erode the perception of value in digital product to where all online product is considered ‘free’”.

“Under the terms of the Digital Economy Act all ISPs will now have to get ready to send warning letters to alleged illegal file downloaders, and to keep lists of repeat infringers which can be requested under established legal procedures. OFCOM will publish the Code on the practical application. As a matter of principle, this is a tremendous step forward and one that puts the provisions of the Digital Economy Act beyond this dog fight, dispelling legal confusion moving forward,” he added.

“Those suffering from runaway Internet piracy were receptive of the Act after years of work battling with other solutions which failed to make it a matter for more than simply the rights holders, who were swamped by the march of technology. Traditionally, ISPs have held the view that such infringement online is simply not their issue,” he continued.

“There still is the risk that the Act faces ongoing technical challenges as pirates are ingenious in adopting new methods of distribution. However, we must remember that it is about maintaining a choice of which business model is employed in taking product to market,” added Julian.

“The news means effectively that no longer does the Act reside in the hands of the court and that means the intellectual property rights of a great many businesses, the fruits of labour, now have the option to benefit from the DEA mechanism if required. The central issue is growth and prosperity at this time,” he continued.

BT and TalkTalk had claimed the Act's provisions were disproportionate and incompatible with EU laws on privacy, freedom of information and the responsibilities of ISPs.

The companies also said the Act should not be enforceable because it had not been submitted in draft form to the European Commission, as required.

Judge Parker disagreed with all these points, agreeing only that BT and TalkTalk were entitled to relief over the administrative fees associated with carrying out the terms of the law.

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