BT prepping challenges over file-sharing court orders

A BT legal battle could have far-reaching implications for the way internet piracy is policed, the telecommunications giant believes.

BT prepping challenges over file-sharing court orders

BT has secured an adjournment in a case involving law firm Gallant Macmillan, which is seeking court orders on behalf of the Ministry of Sound over alleged illegal downloads.

Gallant Macmillan is looking to force a group of ISPs – including BT-owned PlusNet, Sky and Be Broadband – to hand over the names and addresses of people the law firm believed had downloaded music without paying.

We want to ensure broadband subscribers are adequately protected so that rights holders can pursue their claims without causing unnecessary worry to innocent people

However, in the wake of last week’s ACS:Law data breach fiasco, BT has had the case adjourned until 11 January while it prepares to ask the courts for a “a moratorium on outstanding applications and orders”.

“The incident involving the ACS:Law data leak has further damaged people’s confidence in the current process,” said a spokesperson for PlusNet, which is owned by BT. “We’re pleased that the court has agreed to an adjournment so that our concerns can be examined by the court, this will then act as a precedent or test case for the future.”

Level of evidence

BT is believed to be considering asking the courts to rethink the level of evidence presented by rights holders before ISPs are required to divulge customer details, and for proof of sufficient Data Protection Act safeguards within law firms collecting the data.

Asked whether the company would be asking for rights enforcers to show stronger evidence that customers had been file-sharing, a BT spokesperson would only say “that is one of the arguments that’s out there”.

However, a company statement did indeed hint that it would be seeking solid proof before agreeing to hand over details. Under the current system, the IP address alone is taken almost as proof of guilt, allowing law firms to send out threatening letters.

“We want to ensure broadband subscribers are adequately protected so that rights holders can pursue their claims for copyright infringement without causing unnecessary worry to innocent people,” the company said.

BT is already challenging the new Digital Economy Act that was pushed into legislation just before this year’s general election, and was also unhappy about ISPs being asked to pay 25% of the costs for a system of warning letters to be sent to alleged filesharers.

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