ISPs won't need to be cops: iiNet

Landmark case makes OZ a no-go for copyright enforcers

iiNet managing director Michael Malone

iiNet managing director Michael Malone

Australian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may now be free of liability from instances of copyright infringement by its users, according to iiNet managing director Michael Malone.

The ISP has successfully defended a Federal Court case brought by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) which sought damages for thousands of alleged instances copyright infringement on its network.

At iiNet's Sydney office, Malone told Computerworld Australia that the decision set a precedent that would prevent further legal actions claiming ISPs were liable for copyright infringement of their customers.

“There will be a value shift in copyright infringement [liability],” Malone said. “But no customer should take this as a green light to pirate with impunity. Customer disconnection is the lightest measure [against] proven copyright infringers.”

He said he was both “relieved” at the conclusion of the court case and “sad” that AFACT – a potential partner for its media content distribution offering – had decided to take action against it.

He echoed Justice Cowdroy's remarks to a throng of media outside Federal Court that he “understands that [AFACT] wanted to do something” against the widespread abuse of copyright over the Internet.

IiNet already sells children's films from Village Roadshow through its FreeZone and will continue to negotiate with content rights holders to add more content.

Malone told Computerworld AFACT will need to evaluate emerging models where content is distributed online, and said such deals are compelling to content holders and are backed by financially mature models.

iiNet will soon make public its policy against repeat offenders that download copyright material, Malone said. The policy – which provided the ISP with the redundant safeharbour provisions in the Telecommunications Act – has only recently been posted on the company's Intranet. The provision is further protection for other ISPs against similar legal action.

AFACT executive director Neil Gane was mum on whether the organisation will appeal to the High Court of Australia, or if a copyright enforcement model such as the French HADOPI law should be considered by government.

He said only that ruling is “very disappointing” and believed the government will take action against “unabated” copyright infrginement.

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