We are very pleased to report that Mr Justice Wyn Williams announced that he was granting our request, jointly lodged with BT, for a judicial review of the parts of the Digital Economy Act relating to the obligations on ISPs which attempted to tackle illegal filesharing.
We had submitted our application on the basis that the Act was illegal and disproportionate in a number of ways. The Government had argued that our application was groundless. The judge today has effectively decided that there is a case to answer. We remain confident that we will win in the full hearing.
It has been some while since this topic has been in the news so it is worth recapping our concerns.
Our central one is that the obligations won’t work in reducing illegal filesharing (they only tackle peer-to-peer filesharing and people will switch to other undetectable measures), will be hugely expensive (the previous government underestimated many of the costs) and most of all will be grossly unfair (mainly since the subscriber of a connection is effectively held responsible for the activities of other users of their connection and if they want to challenge rightsholders claims the subscriber will be presumed guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent).
Our other worry is the alarming lack of proper scrutiny the original Bill received in Parliament (which is probably one of the reasons that it was so flawed). Back at the start of 2010, as the Digital Economy Bill was being rushed into law, we were appalled by the ability of big music and film companies to influence government and by the absence of any proper debate or scrutiny by MPs. Only 6% of MPs turned up for the very brief debate on the bill in its final stages and the other important Parliamentary processes were bypassed in the ‘wash-up process’ (the period just before a general election when any outstanding uncontentious bills are quickly passed into law).
We are not against trying to reduce illegal filesharing but it must be done in a fair and legal way that properly respects consumers’ interests. We are pleased that today the DCMS has announced an inquiry into protecting copyright online and the effectiveness of the DE Act.
So we are extremely happy with the High Court’s decision and we now look forward to the full judicial review.