Court blocks phone directory on disc

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The Independent Online
The planned launch in Britain of a German-made CD-Rom containing a "reverse search" version of the entire British telephone directory was blocked by the High Court yesterday.

British Telecom, which has issued a writ claiming breach of copyright, was granted a temporary injunction banning the Mannheim-based company, TopWare, from importing, selling or advertising its disc in Britain until a court hearing on October 17.

The disc, called UK-Info, contains nearly 16 million directory entries and costs pounds 19.95. Already on sale through the Internet, it enables computer users to punch in telephone numbers and retrieve names and addresses or obtain lists of residents of entire streets.

BT said yesterday it fears that if customers feel their data is not safeguarded they will become ex-directory, thereby "making a valuable service obsolete". BT's own CD, priced at pounds 199, does not allow "reverse searching" because it is against the industry's code of conduct and is seen as an invasion of subscribers' privacy. Graham Shipley, counsel for BT, told Mrs Justice Arden that the reverse search facility was causing "considerable concern" at the telecom regulator Oftel and the office of the Data Protection Registrar.

TopWare, which did not make an appearance, is to contest the order in court next month. Alastair Crawford, media manager for the company, said : "Obviously TopWare is going to obey the injunction but it will do everything it can within the limits of the injunction to market, promote and sell UK-Info. However, no one has informed us that we have an injunction against us, and until that happens we will continue as before."

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