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A comic written by AFACT warns children of the dangers of piracy.  (Source: AFACT)
Yesterday was a bitter one for Australia's piracy opponents

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the parent organization of the RIAA, and assorted motion picture copyright organizations worldwide (such as the MPAA) have over the last decade has been trying to combat piracy worldwide.  The organizations have seen different degrees of success in different nations.  Some nations have largely refused to let their citizens be policed by copyright organization lawyers.  Others, though, like France and Britain have embraced the efforts so thoroughly, that they have pending legislation that could force internet service provider to terminate paying customers that fileshare copyrighted works.

Another nation that was thought to be rather pro-copyright holders was Australia.  Australia also mulled over "three strikes" legislation in recent years, which would take filesharers offline.  However, a key Australian court ruling has changed all of that, essentially killing a major avenue of the copyright enforcers' efforts in the country.

The case began with the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (a motion picture copyright protection organization) filing suit against internet service provider iiNet, trying to secure a ruling to force it to police its network for filesharing and warn and/or disconnect violators. 

A landmark decision was delivered on Thursday morning by the Australian Federal Court (similar to the U.S. Supreme Court), covered live on Twitter (the first Australian federal case to be covered by the microblogging service).  In the end, Justice Dennis Cowdroy struck a major blow against the copyright protection organizations, ruling that the ISP had not "authorised" its customers' infringement by ignoring thousands of letters from AFACT.

He said that iiNet was merely providing customers a service (internet) and it was not the company's fault if customers abused it, using Bittorrent or other filesharing technologies.  He stated, "iiNet is not responsible if an iiNet user uses that system to bring about copyright infringement … the law recognises no positive obligation on any person to protect the copyright of another."

Tony Joyner, a partner in the technology and IT group at Australian law firm Freehills says that the decision brought an intriguing end to an interesting case.  He describes, "Everything iiNet says is rational.  They're saying we're just a simple conduit and if people are doing bad things it's not up to us to be the police. The studios are also being very rational and saying it's happening on your turf, so we need you to do something."

The effects of the decision may be multifold.  Sabiene Heindl, general manager of the music industry's anti-piracy arm, Music Industry Piracy Investigations (an IFPI child org.) threatens, "Today's Federal Court decision suggests that copyright owners broadly may have no choice but to sue individuals for illegal file-sharing. This would be a most unfortunate outcome."

Still, suing individuals would be much less cost effective to the music and movie studios than merely securing legislation forcing ISPs to ban filesharers.  As Australia has a system of checks and balances, the copyright organizations could still pour their money into lobbying Australian legislators to push through legislation reversing the court verdict.  They also have up to 21 days to appeal the verdict.

The Australian decision is of significant interest to the United States' own piracy debate.  In the U.S. the cost of lawsuits has forced the RIAA and MPAA to scale back their legal campaigns against individual citizens.  However, they did secure an ally in America's third largest broadband provider, Verizon.  Verizon recently began sending warning letters to customers who fileshare to "educate" them on the dangers.

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RE: what a concept
By JediJeb on 2/5/2010 2:04:25 PM , Rating: 4
While I don't like government sticking their nose into my business while I am obeying the laws, saying speed cameras violate privacy does not make sense to me. It is like saying the killing someone is legal as long as noone see you do it. The cameras only take a photo when they sense a vehicle is traveling above the speed limit, therefore the driver of the vehicle is violating the law and in making the decision to violate the law they have in a sense forfeited their right to privacy.

Reminds me of an incident that happened near me recently, where a guy was stealing power cables and selling the copper in them. They guy trespasses on the property of a coal mine, tries to use an axe to cut a power cable lying on the ground. Turns out the power cable was 880 volts and attached to a huge electric powered excavator. The guy lost his legs from the burns he got from the cable. Then tried to sue the mining company because of his injuries. To me once he made the decision to break the law and steal the cable, he forfeited his rights to protection from injury.

RE: what a concept
By PlasmaBomb on 2/8/2010 10:40:01 AM , Rating: 1
So what was the outcome of the case?

RE: what a concept
By foolsgambit11 on 2/8/2010 7:57:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's simpler than that. You are on a public road. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a public thoroughfare. Your license plate is there for a reason - to publicly identify your car (and its registration) in case of an illegal action. Whether a person or a camera records your plates doesn't matter.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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