iiNet wins copyright case against Hollywood – is not liable for users’ piracy

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Image: steakpinball/Flickr (Creative Commons)

So, if you have been living under a rock, iiNet has won its three year long case against the movie industry, sparing itself being liable for any copyright infringement of movies and music by users on its network.

The High Court, in Perth, dismissed the case brought against iiNet by AFACT, saying in a summary, “The High Court held that the respondent, an internet service provider, had not authorised the infringement by its customers of the appellants’ copyright in commercially released films and television programs.”

This is the final blow to Hollywood – after the Federal Court, and its appeal failed last time. The High Court’s decision was a unanimous decision, according to the summary. It explains:

The Court observed that iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright in the appellants’ films. Rather, the extent of iiNet’s power to prevent its customers from infringing the appellants’ copyright was limited to an indirect power to terminate its contractual relationship with its customers. Further, the Court held that the information contained in the AFACT notices, as and when they were served, did not provide iiNet with a reasonable basis for sending warning notices to individual customers containing threats to suspend or terminate those customers’ accounts. For these reasons, the Court held that it could not be inferred from iiNet’s inactivity after receiving the AFACT notices that iiNet had authorised any act of infringement of copyright in the appellants’ films by its customers.

In other words: iiNet has no control over BitTorrent, unless it terminated its contract with customers. It also ruled that its notices provided by AFACT were not sufficient enough to send threats to suspend or terminate accounts.

iiNet is pleased with the news. iiNet’s Michael Malone said in a statement, “Today’s High Court five-nil ruling confirms that iiNet is not liable for ‘authorising’ the conduct of its customers who engaged in online copyright infringement.”

Talking to ZDNet Australia, managing director for AFACT Neil Gane said “The message is very clear: it is time for the government to act. The decision shows that Australian law has been left behind in overseas development in online copyright protection.”

iiNet has been awarded damages by the court, which could be up to $9 million.

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