The Internet industry is calling for content owners to work proactively with ISPs following iiNet’s historic win in the Federal Court against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).
On February 4, presiding judge on the landmark copyright infringement case, Justice Cowdroy, ruled in favour of iiNet, stating it did not authorise piracy activities conducted by its users. While he conceded movie studio applicants, represented by AFACT, had had their copyrights breached, Cowdroy concluded the ISP was not responsible for its users’ actions.
AFACT was ordered to pay iiNet’s legal cost, estimated at $4 million. In a statement, the anti-piracy organisation blamed the outcome on the court’s technical interpretation of how ISPs control content access over their networks. The group is expected to appeal the decision in the High Court.
Despite this looming threat, fellow ISPs have banded together to congratulate iiNet over its win. SA-based ISP, Internode carrier relations manager, John Lindsay, said the decision was a victory for ISPs. He also expressed frustration at the unwillingness of local content owners to work proactively with Internet suppliers.
“The ISP sector is all about connecting consumers to content and we’ve been trying to get IPTV and video-on-demand services up for years,” he said. “The content industry, up until now, has not been cooperative in Australia, though it has been in other countries.”
The fact Justice Cowdroy ruled iiNet was covered under safe harbour provisions impressed Melbourne ISP, Netspace, which saw it as an encouraging sign for the ISP industry. Safe harbour details the responsibilities of ISPs to protecting a user’s privacy. iiNet was granted the provision as it maintained a repeat infringer policy.
“It’s a victory for common sense in that it’s clear the provision of Internet services is not encouraging piracy,” Netspace carrier affairs manager, Matthew Phillips, said. “There are other things that need to be done to reduce piracy but expecting ISPs to police it is clearly not a practical solution.
“I accept the ISP industry has a role to play to reduce piracy but we’re certainly not taking a lead role and we have to ensure we’re not made the scapegoat for copyright holders in a bid to protect their own livelihood.”
iPrimus CEO, Ravi Bhatia, commended iiNet’s CEO, Michael Malone, and chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, for maintaining their composure while defending themselves against what he branded “unreasonable charges”. All ISPs used the win to call for more collaboration with content owners. iiNet, iPrimus and Internode are already involved in offering legal content through their networks.