Australian Copyright Orgs Vow to Turn Attacks to Citizens After Legal Defeat
February 5, 2010 8:55 AM
A comic written by AFACT warns children of the dangers of piracy.
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.
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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