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UK court upholds controversial online copyright infringement act

The UK High Court on Wednesday upheld [judgment, PDF] the nation's Digital Economy Act (DEA) [text and materials], aimed at the prevention of online copyright infringement. Justice Kenneth Parker dismissed four of the five challenges [claim, PDF] brought in July by UK Internet service providers (ISPs) BT Group PLC and TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC [corporate websites], including claims that the bill was not given adequate scrutiny before its passage and that it may require certain amendments in order to comply with EU rules on privacy and policing by ISPs. Parker sustained the remaining challenge, which questions a provision that requires ISPs to pay 25% of the monitoring costs. The ruling allows the DEA to proceed toward entering effect, though officials are expected to reevaluate the funding sources. The court agreed to review [JURIST report] the matter in November.

Last year, the UK Parliament [official website] approved legislation [JURIST report] 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. It 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 that it is a necessary step to protect the creators of digital content. In November, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced that Britain's intellectual property laws would 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 DEA, was cheered by Internet freedom campaigners and small businesses alike.

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