The Government's ISP filtering trial has featured prominently in the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft’s (AFACT) cross examination of iiNet CEO, Michael Malone.
On day 14 of the copyright trial, AFACT barrister, Tony Bannon, quizzed Malone on his knowledge of methods to block certain websites on a network. The barrister made specific reference to the ACMA blacklist, a catalogue of websites containing illicit material – such as child pornography – used in the Internet clean-feed trial.
iiNet volunteered to participate in the trial but pulled out in March after Malone claimed the policy was “fundamentally flawed, a waste of taxpayers’ money and would not work”.
The iiNet chief conceded, to his knowledge, that there were ways to set-up roadblocks at entry or exit points to a network to prevent access to certain sites but said the company did not have the technical capabilities to enforce this.
Bannon then asked whether Malone was familiar with The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent tracker website embroiled in a copyright case in Sweden. The tracker site was famous for supplying outlets to download unauthorised content but did not host the material. Its founders were found guilty of being accessories to crimes against copyright law in April and were all sentenced to one year in prison.
“[Does iiNet] have any desire for its customers to have access to a site where the only purpose it serves is to provide pirated copies of films?” Bannon asked.
That question was met with an objection by iiNet barrister, Richard Cobden, who suggested the desire of customers is “highly irrelevant”.
Bannon retorted that applicants of this case are seeking a Court order to block access to certain sites including The Pirate Bay. He pointed out 50 per cent of infringement instances submitted as evidence concerned files from that particular tracker site.
Malone said he was aware of its existence through media coverage but said iiNet had not taken any action to block customer access to The Pirate Bay. While tools existed to enforce a block, those methods could be "trivially bypassed" through technical means, he said.
“To do a very naïve block of certain sites [is possible] with the addition of more equipment,” Malone said. “I know this because we would have required the equipment to participate in the Government’s filtering trials but even then it could be trivially bypassed by customers that want to bypass it.
“To completely and conclusively block asses to The Pirate Bay, I believe it to be beyond our technical capability or of any ISP.”
Bannon pointed out iiNet did in fact have the necessary tools to do so, in particular the Cisco 2600 series router. Malone could not say for certain the company owned such a router but said if that was true, it did not have the scale or capability to extend the services across its entire network.
“[By reason of iiNet’s] continued connection of customers generally without taking any steps, including to particular customers, we are arguing it amounts to sanctioning and authorisation of conduct of [actual or suspected infringement activities],” he said.
Representing a number of movie studio applicants, AFACT has taken iiNet to Court over copyright issues. The plaintiff has accused the ISP of “authorising” its subscribers to break the law by turning a blind eye to copyright infringement activities through BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer (P2P) file transfer client.
For a detailed timeline of the trial, click here.