It may have taken A$6.5 million, but iiNet has secured a landmark court decision defending its position against a consortium of movie studios and AFACT, that is should not be held responsible for the illegal downloading of filmed content by its users.
The Australian Internet industry has widely welcomed the Federal Court decision dismissing the studios’ appeal against iiNet.
iiNet chief executive Michael Malone said that despite the immense cost involved in the protracted legal wrangle “it hasn't stopped one customer from downloading anywhere in Australia".
He fired back at the film industry, challenging them to "address the growing demand for studio content to be delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner to consumers. And let's find a better way to be able to police those who don't do the right thing."
Electronic Frontiers Australia described the outcome as “very important in securing the rights of internet users to due process in relation to allegations of copyright infringement and also in protecting Internet Service Providers (including Government departments, Schools, Universities and coffee shops) from liability for any copyright infringements by users of the service.”
EFA warned that while there may be further action in the High Court, the majority decision was a landmark for Australian law and a valuable precedent for other international ISPs faced with the same question.
An EFA spokesperson said however that the judgment was “not a free pass for ISPs.”
The Court was critical of iiNet’s “repeat infringer” policy, noting that the ISP hadn’t really tried to stop alleged infringers.
It also highlighted that the ISPs hadn’t achieved an industry code to trigger “safe harbour” protections and in the event that an authorisation of infringement was proved then ISPs would not have the benefit of those protections in the Copyright Act.
The EFA congratulated iiNet on an important win, and praised the company for putting up a strong defence against copyright owners where in other international cases internet companies and legislators have buckled under industry pressure.
The Internet Industry Association, a high-profile supporter of iiNet’s position, welcomed the decision and hoped that there would be no further appeals.
"The IIA has consistently maintained it is not the role of internet providers as intermediary to enforce third-party rights, but we hope now that the decision will enable the rights holders to work with the industry to develop a model so that end users can be provided compelling lawful content in Australia," IIA chief Peter Coroneos said.
Meanwhile, The Pirate Party commented “the law should not seek to impose the responsibility of copyright enforcement on ISPs making them de facto copyright police.”
Party President.Rodney Serkowski added that an imposition of such a regulatory burden would unjustifiably increase costs for ISPs and consumers. “It would also necessitate incursions into consumers privacy, something the Telecommunications Act presently forbids."