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Court to hear challenge from broadband providers over Digital Act

The High Court will hear a challenge by BT and TalkTalk today against legislation aimed at tackling illegal filesharing and protecting intellectual property rights online.

The companies, two of the UK's largest broadband providers, argue the Digital Economy Act is seriously flawed and conflicts with European law.

They warn it could infringe internet users’ “basic rights and freedoms” and was given “insufficient scrutiny” in Parliament when it was rushed through in the dying days of the last Labour government. The Coalition says it has no plans to repeal the Act.

A spokesman at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has said the Government believed the Digital Economy Act was “consistent with EU legislation and contains sufficient safeguards to protect the rights of consumers and internet service providers”.

The Act “sets out to protect our creative economy from the threat of online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs them £400m a year”.

BT and TalkTalk will argue at the hearing in London that the way the new law was introduced was procedurally flawed and could potentially lead to millions of innocent customers having their privacy invaded.

A number of MPs and pressure groups voiced concern following the controversial Digital Economy Bill being given royal assent after just two hours of debate in the Commons.

The parliamentary inquiry into the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights online has been suspended pending the High Court challenge.

The IP framework brought in by the new Act was set to be assessed by the culture, media and sports committee.

The submission deadline for written evidence has been extended, and no public evidence sessions will be held until the BT/TalkTalk judicial review has concluded.

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