Industry groups have welcomed news of iiNet’s victory against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) in the Federal Court.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) claimed the verdict was an overwhelming victory for Internet users.
“It will provide certainty for users, meaning they will not be falsely accused and have their Internet connection removed without any judicial oversight,” EFA chair, Nic Suzor, said. “An AFACT win would have turned ISPs into private copyright police and today the court ruled they have no power to do so.”
The judgment also proved the existing safe harbour policy, which defines the responsibilities of an ISP, is adequate and outlines a clearer standard on whether ISPs should be held accountable for the actions of their users.
“It clarifies the meaning of authorisation to say an ISP merely by providing access does not actually provide the facilities for infringement,” Suzor said. “It means an ISP which has no ability to control what users do online do not have to be liable for their users and I think this ruling provides much needed certainty in Australian law.”
Internet Industry Australia (IIA) chief executive, Peter Coroneos, was cautiously pleased with the win but said he had yet to read the judgement in full.
“Our preliminary view is that this is a good outcome and we were gratified by his honour’s distinguishing the role of an ISP as the provider of access for something else – he made the point that ISPs don’t control the software by which the infringements can occur,” he said. “He [Cowdroy] couldn’t find them [iiNet] liable for having authorised it. That’s a very important distinction that the judge understood.”
While he wouldn’t comment on Justice Cowdroy’s level of technical understanding, Coroneos praised the judge for making “informed points” and taking careful considerations.
Although the IIA was rejected from becoming a trusted witness in the case, Coroneos said it would need to reconsider its options if AFACT appeals.
“We’re certainly aware this case is being watched carefully internationally and the case didn’t occur in isolation – there have been attempts to hold ISPs liable for the actions of their customers in other jurisdictions as well,” he said. “But as the judge pointed out, this is the first case to actually go to judgement. To that extent, I think ISPs and others around the world will certainly be taking notice of the findings.
“Copyright infringement on the Internet is a global issue so it’ll be worked out globally over time. But decisions like this obviously pave the way for a body of precedence that will serve to operate into the future.
“This is not a precedent for international courts but we anticipate the judge’s reasons may be followed, understood and argued elsewhere.”
Today, in the Federal Court, presiding judge, Justice Cowdroy ruled “it [was] impossible to conclude iiNet has authorised copyright infringements".
Representing 34 movie studio applicants, AFACT took iiNet to court over allegedly ‘authorising’ piracy on its network through inaction.
For a full timeline of events around the AFACT vs iiNet case, click here.
David Ramli contributed to this story.