Studios sue iiNet for piracy in Oz

Allege ISP failed to block users from using BitTorrent for ill

BEIJING -- Seven leading film companies sued Australian Internet service provider iiNet in federal court in Sydney on Thursday for failing to stop its customers from pirating films using BitTorrent technology.

Disney, Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. sued after iiNet ignored 18 weeks of notices identifying thousands of illegal file transfers by customers using its network, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft said in a statement.

Joining the studios in the legal action -- the first of its nature and scale in Australia -- was the Seven Network, which licenses many of the studios' films for broadcast on television.

Together the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages from iiNet, which charges its customers a fee for service, and have asked the court to consider that the piracy went on at a "commercial scale," AFACT said.

Chris Chard, Roadshow Entertainment managing director, said that the suit was motivated by a desire to stop piracy from hurting the studios in everything from film production to exhibition to home entertainment.

"Ultimately piracy results in lost jobs, and limits investment in new programs and films, as well as in new technologies which benefit consumers. This will only worsen as broadband speeds increase if we do not take action now," Chard said.

AFACT said films found pirated on iiNet included, among others, "Enchanted" (Disney), "Transformers" (Paramount), "Hancock" (Sony), and "Horton Hears a Who!" (Fox), "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (Universal), "I Am Legend" (Village Roadshow) and "Batman Begins" (Warners).

The case will be back before the court on Dec. 17.