CommsAlliance to join iiNet copyright case, aims to find industry-led solution by next year

The telco industry group is seeking to be 'a friend of the court' at the High Court hearing and has ambitions to find an industry-led solution to content theft online by early next year

Communications Alliance has applied to participate in the copyright case between iiNet and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). It is also looking forward to an industry-led solution to content piracy online by early next year.

The industry group represents most of the major telcos in Australia.

AFACT, on behalf of a number of big movie studios, took the Perth-based ISP to Court two years ago. The anti-piracy group claimed iiNet authorised movie piracy by subscribers on its network through inaction.

Despite iiNet's initial win in the Federal Court, the long-running case is scheduled to go to the High Court in December.

Communications Alliance is seeking to intervene in the court case as an amicus curaie, which essentially means “a friend of the Court”. The IIA had applied to be amicus curaie during the Federal Court proceeding but has decided to sit out of this round.

The industry group decided to be a part of the Court action because the outcome of the case carries enormous risk for ISPs and consumers, according to Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton.

He was speaking at the Communications Day Summit in Melbourne.

“We are supporting iiNet's submission in that case but also making additional arguments on what constitutes authorisation of copyright infringement or not or what constitutes reasonable steps by ISPs to act to help prevent copyright infringement by its customers,” Stanton said.

Should AFACT win in the High Court, the ramifications for ISPs would be higher cost associated with policing its networks and disconnecting allegedly copyright infringing customers, he said.

“The disconnection of Internet customers in today's increasingly converged world can also involve disconnecting them from voice services and or emergency call services,” Stanton said. “It can also involve disconnecting users that have nothing to do with any alleged or actual infringement.

“So I hope we are granted leave in this case that is a very important one for all Australians.”

Communications Alliance has worked with the IIA to hold discussions between ISPs and content owners - include those in the movie, music and software industry - in order to develop an industry led solution to piracy over the Internet.

“We have made more progress in the last three months on this issue than in the last 10 years,” Stanton said.

The Communications Alliance CEO would like to see an industry led solution in place by early next year.

“We certainly don't want to spend a year thrashing this out; there is an urgency to it on both sides to get it done,” Stanton said. “That ought to be possible in a matter of months if it is going to happen at all.”

The industry group has had several discussions about content piracy online with the Attorney-General's department and both are expected to meet up again at the end of the year to discuss the iiNet v AFACT case after the High Court hearing.