Telecom firms must warn over web copyright

BT and TalkTalk lost a court appeal yesterday, meaning the internet service providers (ISPs) will now have to identify and warn customers who are suspected of illegally accessing copyrighted material online.

The two major British ISPs challenged a High Court ruling, claiming the Digital Economy Act – a crack down on illegal file sharing ­– is incompatible with EU law and could constitute an invasion of privacy and run up significant costs for consumers.

But the judges disagreed, so the ISPs will now have to send warning letters to customers suspected by film studios or record labels of having illegally accessed pirate sites.

If this scheme is found not to be effective after one year, further legislation could be implemented to punish persistent offenders by slowing or suspending their internet access.

BT said it would look at the judgment carefully “to understand its implications and consider our next steps”.

But TalkTalk’s response was firmer. The telecoms group said it was also considering its options but “will continue fighting to defend our customers’ rights against this ill-judged legislation”.