AFACT attacks Westnet piracy policy

AFACT attacks Westnet piracy policy

Summary: iiNet managing director Michael Malone today denied that cancelling iiNet subsidiary Westnet's policy to forward copyright breach notifications was designed to be obstructive to copyright holders.


iiNet managing director Michael Malone today denied that cancelling iiNet subsidiary Westnet's policy to forward copyright breach notifications was designed to be obstructive to copyright holders.

iiNet chief Michael Malone (Credit: iiNet)

Day nine of the Federal Court hearing in which iiNet stands accused of authorising its customers breach of copyright in relation to 86 films owned by 34 applicants has today seen Malone take the witness stand for the first time.

AFACT's legal counsel Tony Bannon vigorously questioned Malone about the different policies that iiNet and its subsidiary, Westnet, which iiNet acquired in May last year, had in relation to forwarding breach notifications from copyright owner lobby groups, Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) and AFACT.

The court heard Malone describe iiNet's policy of not forwarding copyright breach notifications to customers as a little less proactive than Westnet. Bannon raised email evidence from October 2008 showing that some Westnet executives believed that by forwarding MIPI's notifications, it was assisting in the fight against copyright infringement, and that it was reducing illegal content on its network.

This policy was cancelled under Malone's instruction in November 2008. Malone defended the decision as one policy area of many that he was making consistent across the two companies. He had also previously said, according to an email included as evidence, that it was bad for the industry.

Asked to clarify what he meant, Malone said that Westnet's policy was not in line with the position the industry, under the auspices of the Internet Industry Association, had been negotiating with copyright owners at the time.

Bannon suggested to Malone that his affidavit was written with the intent of giving the court the impression that forwarding breach notifications was impractical or overly burdensome.

Malone agreed that forwarding notifications, and the process of disconnecting a client, would be a burden and would involve considerable employee time devoted to the actions. "Nowhere in that did you mention that [Westnet] had a policy of forwarding notices to customers," said Bannon.

"That's correct," Malone replied.

"In fact that information, namely that Westnet had such a policy, is not mentioned anywhere in your affidavit. Your object, in signing this affidavit, was to convey the impression to court that it would be impractical, or overly burdensome, to forward notifications to customers," Bannon claimed.

The court also heard evidence that one of iiNet's customers in the 20 accounts selected as evidence for the hearing was still a customer. The customer, identified as RC8, had made the Sony film Pineapple Express available.

Malone agreed that the customer was still able to access the internet and that that was the only means by which they would be able to continue breaching copyright. "You have certainly not taken any steps to cut off that customer," said Bannon.

Malone said he had not. The hearing continues.

Topics: Telcos, Government AU, Piracy

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Good on you iiNet

    I am so pleased that iiNet is standing up for their customers. Why should an ISP disconnect a customer just because of an “alleged” breech of copyright. Who the hell does AFECT think they are. It should be up to the Recording industry and AFECT to prove that the law has been broken through the legal system and only the law-courts should be able punish an individual. It’s not up to AFACT or a bunch of multi-national fascists to act as the law in this country. The way they act makes me want to steal from them.
  • Too right, Glenn!

    re: Too right, Glenn!

    Glenn, I couldnt agree more!!!

    While about it, lets prosecute the Power utilities company for providing the power that enabled the alleged breech of copyright. They didnt switch the power off.

    Lets not forget about the Computer manufacturers of the machine that the user used that enabled the alleged breech... Lets sue them for not removing the machines and equipment that was used!

    Lets cut off the finger that the user used to scratch its backside with, whilst the alleged breech occurred....

    This should be thrown out of court as a load of hogwash!!!
  • Right on

    And we should also sue Microsoft for supplying the operating system that most people use to download and play these copyright breaches in.
  • Crapola

    That's like saying you'd sue a carmaker because some car coyboy drove it into a crowd of people and killed them. Your logic is stupid and senseless.

    People have to take responsibility for their own actions. If you download a file that is protected by copyright and you don't have the copyright owner's permission then that is stealing. All popular operating systems have music players in them, so why just point the finger at Microsoft? Look at the iPod - the humble iPod carries far more illegal music than the Microsoft-powered computer you speak of. Don't get me wrong here - I'm not blaming Apple either.

    People have to take responsibility for their own actions and not blame anyone else for what is actually a criminal offence.
  • Copyright violation is not stealing

    Copyright violation is not stealing. It is using material without permission. The term stealing implies that you have deprived the owner of the item in question; If you steal a car, then the owner of that car no longer has a vehicle to drive. Duplicating a movie does not deprive the owner of the copyright of anything. It is not stealing.
  • To be fair ...

    ... it does indeed deprive them of something, namely, income.
  • Assumption

    I can handle that argument, and I'm happy to debate it. Although that does rely on the assumption that the work that was copyrighted would have been purchased if it were not copied. Many 'pirates' only use copyrighted material as a trial, if they value the product, they will buy it. Odds are (absolutely not in all cases, but often) that they wouldn't have bought the item in the first place so no income has ben deprived.
  • How far do you wanna take it?

    If you wanna be pedantic over it, then recording anything other that certain live broadcasts from your TV is considered a copyright violation as well. But I suppose you would never have done that ay Mel? Never ripped a CD from a mate onto your PC? funny how all these people sit on their high horse & preach the dos & don'ts of copyright law knowing full well that at some point they've breached those laws themselves.