The film studios and TV stations represented by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) have already notched up a win in their civil case against Internet service provider, iiNet, whichever way you look at it.
AFACT has considerable runs on the board regardless of what happens at the outcome of the case, which will run for one more week in Sydney at the Federal Court of Australia, have two weeks off and return for a final two weeks.
How so? The media have debated the ins and outs of the case both on and offline and there is no doubt people are now, more than ever, aware of AFACT's goals and the issue of copyright infringement. A review of the country's copyright and telecommunications legislation is now possible, although not guaranteed. At the least, it will be addressed by the High Court of Australia once the loser of this round appeals the verdict.
That, in itself, is an arguably better result for AFACT than any multi-million dollar advertising campaign.
Not everyone likes what AFACT is doing — people have never taken well to big corporations lecturing them on copyright, particularly when the same companies rake in millions in profits.
But the studios have known this for some time and I suspect those sitting at the respective film studio boardroom tables factored this into their thinking. In short: they wouldn't really care if they annoyed a few more people by starting up this case and probably won't worry too much if they don't win. I don't think they seriously believe digital piracy will ever stop by taking these actions.
Few people in Australia, however, could argue they don’t know about the issue at hand after this week. People are now seriously debating the role of ISPs in helping stop the copyright theft that goes on in the digital realm. That mind share is worth its weight in gold for AFACT.
I'm not suggesting that I agree with the arguments on either side of the case — I'd rather wait to see what Justice Cowdroy or our esteemed judges at the High Court (if it is taken up the judicial chain at the end of this case) have to say.
But I do think the debate is one that needs to occur. I'd also argue we can now see the powers that be have to clarify the online copyright infringement mess and uncertainty surrounding the role of ISPs in this regard.
Would we have had this discussion without the case? Perhaps, but definitely not with the ferociousness it has now gripped the IT industry and wider community.
And that is certainly a win for the film studios and TV stations. They may lose this round and have to fork out legal expenses but that is a drop in the financial bucket for the dozens of film studios and TV stations taking part.