The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) case against Australian ISP iiNet will now hinge on evidence contained within 20 anonymous customer accounts, Justice Cowdroy ruled in the Federal Court today.
AFACT's legal team had initially requested access to the records of 300 iiNet customers, but Cowdroy today decided a sample of 20 accounts — which could contain multiple instances of file-sharing — would be sufficient.
"We are confident that the sample of 20 accounts ordered by the court to be provided by iiNet will be more than adequate to illustrate the infringing behaviour of iiNet's subscribers," Adrianne Pecotic, executive director of AFACT said in a statement this afternoon.
Justice Cowdroy also today knocked back two discovery requests lodged by iiNet last week, which sought to have AFACT provide documents on how it was handling copyright infringement in other jurisdictions such as Sweden, and separately how it was handling other infringements within Australia.
Cowdroy's decision on the scope of evidence will set the scene for the battle, scheduled for an October hearing.
In previous cases, such as Kazaa versus Sharman Networks, evidence was limited to just 99 instances of file-sharing. Depending on the particulars of the 20 selected accounts, the evidence could be much larger in this case. AFACT is expected to provide iiNet with a range of IP addresses that it wants included as evidence, after which iiNet will return the list of IP addresses associated with 20 user accounts.
iiNet had previously argued that providing account information was in breach of the 1997 Telecommunications Act, however, AFACT specified it only wanted access to de-identified information that could link file-sharing activity to certain IP addresses. Cowdroy this morning told the two parties that a confidentiality agreement would need to be struck to ensure the protection of customers' identities.
Another point of contention was whether the prosecution's evidence, which partially relied on so-called "trap downloads" — set up by its investigators prior to the action — was legal and whether it could be used as evidence. This may not matter, however, since the prosecution's focus will be on whether the source of a film file was from within Australia, not on the legality of the actual download.
"Today's rulings ensure the focus of the case remains on iiNet and its subscribers and their behaviour under Australian copyright laws. The focus of the case is now squarely on the hearing which is set down to begin in October this year," AFACT's Pecotic said.
iiNet is expected to release a statement this afternoon. The next proceeding will be heard on 19 August.