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UK anti-piracy law gets green light as BT and TalkTalk lose appeal

The last appeal by broadband providers against the Digital Economy Act has been thrown out today.

A warning letter could be about to hit your doormat if you're suspected of pirating movies and music, as the last appeal by broadband providers against the Digital Economy Act has been thrown out today.

Internet service providers BT and TalkTalk lost their appeal today against the legislation, designed to prevent Web users from infringing copyright. The legal road is now clear for the law to instruct ISPs to send warning letters to customers suspected of sharing copyrighted material such as movies, music and software.

ISPs could then be instructed by court order to cut off the Internet connection of those who breach copyright.

Other parties named in the ruling include movie and music industry bodies, the Premier League and actors' union Equity.

The BPI told us the Act is "legal, proportionate and fair and can now be implemented. The ISPs' failed legal challenge has meant another year of harm to British musicians and creators from illegal filesharing. The ISPs now need to work constructively with Government and rightsholders to implement the Act."

But copyright campaigners the Open Rights Group told us "There is one thing the court cannot tell us: that this is a good law. This is a policy made on hearsay and assumptions, not proper facts or analysis.

"Significant problems remain. Publicly available WiFi will be put at risk. Weak evidence could be used to penalise people accused of copyright infringement. And people will have to pay £20 for the privilege of defending themselves against these accusations."

The half-formed Digital Economy Act was waved through parliament in the 'wash-up', a period of horse-trading when laws are rushed through before an election. BT and TalkTalk mounted a legal challenge to the legislation, arguing that the Act is incompatible with European law.

Although the ISPs lost their legal challenge to the Act itself, they have been let off from footing the bill. Originally the plan was to split the cost of prosecuting copyright criminals between the ISP and the holder of the copyright in question, such as a film studio or record label.

ISPs and rights holders will have to contribute to the cost of Ofcom's panel for appeals by those accused of breaching copyright.

I think the Act is misguided in its approach to solving the problem of copyright infringement, which needs to be tackled by content creators embracing the opportunities of the digital world instead of leaning on government to shore up a failing business model. But whatever your stance on the rights and wrongs of the issue, the technical aspects of the Digital Economy Act are questionable and could be avoided by someone with a basic level of tech-savvy.

Is the Digital Economy Act the right way to tackle online copyright infringement? What can content creators and government do instead to tackle piracy? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook page.