AFACT appeals Oz ISP ruling

Decision clears ISP of liability for illegal downloading

SYDNEY -- Hollywood studios will further test Australia’s copyright laws in their case against Australian Internet Service Provider iiNet, with the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft Friday lodging an appeal to a Federal Court judgment which earlier this month dismissed its claims that iiNet was liable for copyright infringements by its customers. 

In a statement Neil Gane, executive director of AFACT, whose members include all the major studios and other Australian distributors like Roadshow Films and the Seven Network, said the judgment was out of step with well-established copyright law in Australia.

“The court found large-scale copyright infringements, that iiNet knew they were occurring, that iiNet had the contractual and technical capacity to stop them and iiNet did nothing about them,” he said. “In line with previous case law, this would have amounted to authorization of copyright infringement.”  

Federal Court justice Dennis Cowdroy found on February 4, that iiNet had not intended to infringe copyright and had not authorized its customers to infringe copyright, although it did have knowledge of infringements.

Gane added that the decision “allows iiNet to pay lip service to provisions that were designed to encourage ISPs to prevent copyright infringements in return for the safety the law provided.” 

“If this decision stands, the ISPs have all the protection without any of the responsibility. By allowing Internet companies like iiNet to turn a blind eye to copyright theft, the decision harms not just the studios that produce and distribute movies, it but also Australia’s creative community and all those whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant entertainment industry,” he said.

IiNet's managing director Michael Malone said Thursday that further legal action by the studios was not the solution to stop piracy and the appeal “will not stop illegal downloading, even if successful."

“It is more than disappointing and frustrating that the studios have chosen this unproductive path,” Malone said. “This legal case has not stopped one illegal download and further legal appeals will not stop piracy. 

“The studios themselves admitted during the court hearings that making content freely and cheaply available online was an effective way to combat piracy. People are crying out to access the studios materials, so much so some are prepared to steal it.”

Instead he said the success of services like iiNet’s own Freezone and download service Hulu, which is aiming to establish operations here, provided “growing evidence that content partnerships and agreements between ISPs, legal Web sites and copyright holders was doing more to reduce piracy and showcase copyright holders materials."

“New approaches and models, like Hulu and Freezone, are the most effective solution to the problem,” Malone said. “We stand ready to work with the film and television industry to develop, implement and promote these new approaches and models.”