British Court Clears the Way for Anti-Piracy Laws to Get Tough on File-Sharers

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Court of Appeal throws out BT and TalkTalk legal action against Digital Economy rules telling them to pay to play.

LONDON – The final legal challenge to the U.K. government’s anti-piracy law proposals mounted by British Internet service providers BT and TalkTalk has been rejected by the Court of Appeal.

The two broadband players challenged the government’s Digital Economy Act in court saying it wasn’t compatible with European laws and that the legislation put an unfair burden on them as ISPs to pay the costs of the rights-holders' crackdown on illicit downloading.

It means U.K. Internet users accused of illegal file sharing can expect letters warning them off the activity from the government in the post any day now.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that the government could not make ISPs pay a proportion of the case fees attached to the act.

The court ruling in the British capital found that the Digital Economy Act is legal and compatible with European law.

The music and movie industries will welcome the move because it means illegal file sharing should become harder to avoid legal repercussions for in the future.

The Court of Appeal judges agreed with an earlier high court ruling here that the legislation is lawful.

They said that ISPs will have to pay 25 percent of the qualifying costs incurred by media regulator Ofcom in running and setting up an appeals body for alleged illicit file sharers.

They also confirmed that the ISPs should pay 25 percent of relevant costs, which are operating fees incurred when identifying which subscribers are accused of illegal downloading.

But the judges overturned a previous high court ruling, which said that the ISPs have to pay 25 percent of case fees that are charged by the proposed appeals body.

Rights holders have agreed to foot 75 percent of the costs in each of the three fees.