iiNet vs AFACT: Internet Industry Association wants in on the action

AFACT has opposed the industry body’s interest in participating in the legal proceedings

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) is seeking Court permission to join the legal brawl between iiNet and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

Representing a number of different movie studios, AFACT lodged a copyright infringement case against iiNet last November, claiming the company allowed its users to pirate films through BitTorrent and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

IIA, which represents the wider Internet community along with Internet service providers (ISPs), has applied to be amicus curiae, a ‘friend of the court’, in the proceedings. While the group has notified the defendant and plaintiff, no official submission has been made. The industry body has over 140 members, including iiNet, and the ISP has welcomed IIA’s involvement.

In a brief Court hearing, AFACT opposed IIA’s participation, flagging concerns over the Industry organisation’s inherent position. AFACT claimed IIA was incapable of being a neutral independent advisor to the case due to its relationship with iiNet. Through evidence and documents found in discovery, the plaintiff also accused the industry body of working closely with the defendant on the background of the case, promoting further doubts over IIA’s impartiality.

iiNet hit back at the allegations, citing its involvement with many other industry organisations such as the Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC) and rubbished claims that IIA has been aiding the ISP in the case.

“We work with the IIA just like we work with a lot of people,” iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, said. “We would happily work with the movie industry if it was prepared to work with us to develop systems to distribute its products.”

Dalby did not see IIA’s participation as tipping the scales to iiNet’s favour.

“It’s a public interest issue and IIA will not be siding with one party of the other,” he said. “The group is giving information to the Court. What an amicus is required to do is to provide information that is to the public interest that may or may not come out of the evidence provided by the parties.”

An AFACT spokesperson disagreed, pointing to a previous case involving Shaman Network’s P2P client, Kazaa, in which the Court made a distinction between a public interest body and a representative body for members. A decision was made that the latter was not qualified to participate.

IIA declined to comment at time of publication. The presiding judge is expected to make a decision on the group’s application in the coming weeks.

The trial is set to commence October 6.

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