The Federal Court has ruled in favour of iiNet in a copyright case launched by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) that has captured worldwide attention.
In his verdict today, presiding judge, Justice Cowdroy, concluded that iiNet did not authorise infringements and ordered AFACT to pay iiNet's legal cost. While he conceded the applicants' copyright had been breached, the infringements were the result of the users directly and not the ISP's network.
He said iiNet was covered by the "safe harbour" policy pertaining to personal information and privacy conditions followed by ISPs.
According to the judge, notification, suspension and termination of Internet user accounts was not a relevant way to tackle copyright breeches.
“It is impossible to conclude iiNet has authorised copyright infringements,” Justice Cowdroy said.
He highlighted iiNet did not control the BitTorrent system - the main tool used for illegal downloads – and was therefore not responsible for the operation the software client.
The verdict marks the end of round one in the lengthy court battle between AFACT and iiNet. AFACT is expected to appeal and further litigation reach the High Court.
Outside the court, iiNet chief, Michael Malone, said the result would not change how the company operates in the future and the outcome today showws taking legal action against ISPs is not the way to tackle copyright issues.
Herefuted claims the verdict will condone or encourage further piracy activities by Internet users.
AFACT said it was disappointed with the result.
Most ISPs were reticent to comment during the trial process but industry groups had expressed apprehension over a possible AFACT victory.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) said regardless of the outcome, the fundamental problem is an outdated means of content distribution which fails to take the cosmopolitan nature of the Internet into account.
The Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) claimed Internet users would ultimately suffer if AFACT wins the case. Both groups are considering participating as amicus curiae, a 'friend of the court', should the appeal process goes through.
AFACT initiated the case as a representative for several high-profile movie studios. The anti-piracy organisation claimed iiNet 'authorised' copyright infringements on its network by not cutting off the Internet of alleged offending users.
iiNet claimed ISPs have no obligation to police the Internet.