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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 drycrust3 on 2/6/2010 11:36:13 PM , Rating: 2
I don't agree that pirates should be allowed to do whatever they want, either

One of the big problems I see with the internet is that even something very simply like copying your statement (e.g. above) is subject to copyright. But who owns it? You? Jason Mick? DT? Mozilla Firefox? Ubuntu? I don't know. For the sake of argument, let's say it's DT, and say I want to use it for a major advertising campaign. Who do I pay? As Microsoft found out a few years ago when they got sued by an agency because they hadn't paid them billions of $$$ for selling software with mp3 capability, you have to pay EXACTLY the right people or there will be BIIIGGG trouble. Fortunately for us, Microsoft HAD paid EXACTLY the right people, but it is SOOOOOOO VERY EASY to get it wrong. And if you pay the wrong people, they won't turn up in court to defend you, they will just say "so long, and thanks for the dough", which leaves us having to pay the whole lot of copyright fees all over again, hopefully to the right crowd this time.
Which brings up another issue: with groceries or electricity or phones or car registration you know who to pay, but with copyright it seems to be pretty well anyone can claim copyright ownership. We even hear of artists who post original works on Youtube being accused of copyright infringement. They wrote, performed, filmed, whatever, all by themselves and they have to pay copyright to an agency who doesn't even know where they live. How stupid is that?
Then I had an idea: everyone pays an optional copyright fee to their ISP, who passes it on to the copyright people. That way, if there is any accidental copyright issues, then I'm covered. The copyright agencies then collect all this money and distribute it willy nilly as they see fit. If it's to their deserving artists or copyright holders, then that is good; if it's to themselves and their shareholders, then that isn't so good; if it's to their lawyers so they can have massive copyright infringement battles over minor legal technicalities and that take years to drag through the courts and wastes billions of dollars, then that is sad; but it keeps them happy and stops them bothering us.
So then if I get caught filesharing Ubuntu 9.10 or whatever, and I have paid the optional copyright fee, and some copyright agency decides I should have sort their permission instead of Canonical (or whoever) for doing it, then I am covered by this copyright fee. If I haven't paid the fee, then I take my chances with the legal system.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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