Industry welcomes iiNet appeal win

The telco industry has applauded the Federal Court dismissing an appeal for the landmark copyright case brought against iiNet by copyright action group the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

AFACT reacts to adverse court judgement

The telco industry has applauded the Federal Court dismissing an appeal for the landmark copyright case brought against iiNet by copyright action group the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).


(My trusty gavel image by Brian Turner, CC2.0)

The federation commenced legal action against iiNet in the Federal Court in November 2008, hoping to prove the internet provider liable for copyright infringement conducted by its subscribers.

It claimed the internet service provider (ISP) had not taken reasonable steps to prevent customers pirating copyright video over its network.

Today the full bench of the Federal Court dismissed AFACT's appeal.

iiNet managing director Michael Malone said outside court that the case has not stopped one instance of piracy.

"All this legal action hasn't stopped one person downloading anywhere in Australia."

"There needs to be a lot more clarity as to what is expected of telcos, so ultimately this will only be resolved by governments stepping in," Malone said.

AFACT executive director Neil Gane said iiNet must take responsibility for copyright infringement on its network.

"This is a case where the ISP had admitted to tens of thousands of copyright infringements on its network, and it does not have to lift a finger to prevent them," Gane said.

"It cannot be right that in effect the ISP, who has the power to prevent copyright infringement online and has admitted they are taking place, does not share the responsibility to stop it."

Gane said it is too early to comment on the next move AFACT will take, or whether it will appeal the decision. It has 28 days to decide.

Internode regulatory chief John Lindsay welcomed the decision favouring friend and rival iiNet.

"Internode hopes this decision settles the matter and we will continue to work with rights holders to promote legal content," Lindsay said.

Peter Coroneos, the outgoing head of the Internet Industry Association which assisted iiNet in its initial case, said he hopes AFACT will not appeal.

"The IIA has consistently maintained it is not the role of internet providers as intermediary to enforce third-party rights, but we hope now that the decision will enable the rights holders to work with the industry to develop a model so that end users can be provided compelling lawful content in Australia."

He said he will maintain a close relationship with iiNet in the event of an AFACT appeal.

"I hope an appeal won't be necessary. I think it's time we moved along on this issue and begin to address the market failures in innovation," said Coroneos.

Exetel head John Linton said he thought the result was "never in doubt".

"The case was appallingly run by AFACT and the result was never, if you can use such a word in legal matters, in doubt.

"I remain very happy that Exetel didn't have to go through this experience — we have/had neither the money nor the time."

Pirate Party president Rodney Serkowski welcomed the iiNet win.

"An imposition of such a regulatory burden would unjustifiably increase costs for ISPs and, invariably, consumers. It would also necessitate incursions into consumers' privacy, something the Telecommunications Act presently forbids," Serkowski said in a statement.

"Lawmakers should be wary of industry propaganda dressed as studies that purposefully conflate issues and make completely fraudulent conclusions about the economic impacts of file sharing.

"We believe that instead of shifting to an even more draconian enforcement of copyright, stigmatising and repressing Australians who share knowledge, culture and information, the Australian Government must begin to accept the legitimacy of sharing, and the benefits it accrues to both creators and consumers, and those in between."

Serkowski said that file sharing is positive "both culturally and economically", dubbing AFACT a "relic" which is forced to pursue a strategy of "fear, uncertainty and doubt" because of the current legal frameworks.

"For these organisations to change, law makers must change the legal framework within which they operate, making substantive changes that respect the freedom of expression and privacy. It requires changes that recognise the legitimacy of sharing and that encourage it."

Telstra said it will review particular rulings of the case which may be a source of concern.

Optus said it was pleased and would be looking at the judgement in more detail. "Under Australian law there are remedies available to copyright holders, including taking action directly against those alleged to be infringing rights," it said in a statement.