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BitTorrent: Sysadmins to face the music

The federal court has ruled two systems administrators from Internet service provider (ISP) Swiftel can be sued for alleged music piracy, overriding an earlier decision.Perth-based Swiftel has been accused of copyright infringement by major record labels -- which claim the ISP's employees and customers created a BitTorrent file-sharing hub for hosting thousands of pirated sound and video recordings.

The federal court has ruled two systems administrators from Internet service provider (ISP) Swiftel can be sued for alleged music piracy, overriding an earlier decision.

Perth-based Swiftel has been accused of copyright infringement by major record labels -- which claim the ISP's employees and customers created a BitTorrent file-sharing hub for hosting thousands of pirated sound and video recordings.

The labels allege Swiftel's senior systems administrators Melissa Ong and Ryan Briggs ignored calls to remove Web sites that were in breach of copyright, and instead "treated the infringement notices like spam."

In April, magistrate Rolf Driver refused to allow the pair to be added as respondents, saying at that stage there was no evidence they acted beyond the scope of their employment. However, this decision was overturned by Justice Catherine Branson on Friday.

Counsel representing the music industry -- including Warner Music Australia and others -- told the court Ong and Briggs had been well aware of alleged piracy on the Swiftel network.

"We'll be demonstrating that the company had knowledge of what was happening, and that these two individuals knew of this [piracy] activity," Tony Bannon, counsel for the labels, said.

Swiftel's laywer protested, claiming only customers were responsible. However, in a twist, the ISP said a key customer in the case, Archit Jha, has already settled with the music industry's local piracy unit, Music Industry Piracy Investigations.

Jha had been named as the creator of "Archie's hub", a BitTorrent hub central to the case. However, the music industry has not included him as a respondent in its legal action.

Justice Branson noted Jha's situation and absence from the list of respondents. "Archie's [Archit's] someone who could be carrying the can here," she said.

The trial is expected to start in October. Branson ordered Swiftel to produce data backup records by July 8.