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High Court of Australia to Hear Hollywood Studios' Copyright Case

Court to decide if ISPs are reponsible for customers' illegal downloads.

SYDNEY -- The ongoing legal battle over whether Internet service providers can be held responsible for customers' illegal downloads is to go before the High Court of Australia after the Australian Federation of Copyright Theft (AFACT) said Friday it had been given leave to appeal a lower Federal Court decision earlier this year that found Western Australia Internet service provider iiNet had not authorized copyright infringements by its customers.

AFACT is the IP protection coalition of 34 companies that includes the major Hollywood studios and independent Australian film and TV distributors.  

"Despite being successful on many grounds in their appeal to the Full Federal Court, the film and television companies will seek to overturn the ruling that iiNet did not authorize the acts of infringement that it knew occurred on its Internet service," AFACT said on Friday.

While the Federal Court found in favor of iiNet in February the court also agreed with AFACT on key points “including that it was reasonable for ISPs to take steps to prevent known infringements that are occurring on their networks. The majority of the court did not accept iiNet’s argument that establishing a system of warning and mitigation measures was either too difficult or costly."

iiNet Chief Executive Officer Michael Malone acknowledged that, “given the significance of the issues involved”  he was not surprised the High Court had decided to review the case. But he said that ultimately “a genuine whole-of-industry discussion and approach is needed to make content legitimately available online and to tackle illegal downloads.”

"We remain committed to developing an industry solution that sees more content readily and cheaply available online as well as a sensible model for dealing with repeated copyright infringement activity,” Malone said.

"We will continue to defend our position in these proceedings if necessary. I remain convinced that a genuine industry-wide solution is a better outcome for all concerned and I'm hopeful it will be developed," he added.

The High Court will hear the case later this year.