Content owners lawsuit against ISP reaches Australian court

November 2009


Followng on from successful actions against file swapping sites in the USA (MGM v Grokster), Australia (Kazaa) and Sweden (The Pirate Bay), a coalition of film and TV companies are suing an Australian internet service provider for failing to stop it’s customers from file-sharing arguing that the net company is liable under existing Aussie copyright rules. The coalition of content owners, under the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft banner, allege that Perth-based iiNet is guilty of so called authorising (or contributory) copyright infringement for knowingly ignoring massive amounts of illegal file-sharing undertaken by its customers on its servers saying that investigators hired by FACT set up iiNet internet accounts and used them to share film content online, even telling iiNet about the infringement being conducted by the investigators. It is alleged that the net firm failed to take any action even though their own terms and conditions say customers must not access illegal content and that customers could be disconnected as a result of being in breach of contract. The US case of MGM v Grokster sets an important precedent in this area of law although not one that binds Australian courts but in both the US and Europe ‘safe harbour’ provisions would usually protect telephone companies and internet service providers from actions which is why European movie and music companies are lobbying for laws that specifically oblige ISPs to play a role in policing piracy. In particular content owners are looking for ‘three strikes’ laws,  such as the Loi Hadopi currently passing through France’e legislative process and the similar version being mooted in the UK where infringers internet connections are cut off or substantially reduced after a series of warnings. iiNet’s Managing Director said he was confident that his company will win the court case. He told reporters: “I am proud of iiNet’s long and strong record of being a good corporate citizen and an even better ‘copyright citizen’. I welcome the commencement of the court proceedings and look forward to clearing our name”.

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