iiNet braces for AFACT appeal

Fight centres over letter of law

Have you ever received a letter from your Internet provider for downloading something you shouldn’t have? Like a movie or an album?

I know people that have, and the letter worked a treat. That pro-forma note, asking you to click a pixelated button on a web site to acknowledge your crimes and then be on your way, did stop their torrenting pirate antics.

But ironically, it turns out your provider might just have broken the law by sending that letter.

It’s one of a line of strange, confusing, and compelling arguments that will be put forward to a three Federal Court judges in the public — and expensive — squabble between iiNet and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

The latter alleges the former allowed hundreds of thousands of its Australian subscribers to download illegal copies of movies own by its members, including 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney and Paramount Studios. And reams — 16 carts, rather — of evidence were presented in the initial court hearings following AFACT covert investigations.

The two will meet today after AFACT appealed its defeat in the Federal Court last January.

The case has garnered interest from all corners of the ICT industry, and from global media, because it could decide whether or not Internet providers must enforce copyright upon subscribers; meaning you and I might need to be good netizens or our providers could, for instance, ban us from the Internet.

It is not absurd notion, but a possible result from what is surely the fruits of belated legislative change to control and legalise the amorphous, faceless Internet.

Change represented by senators wishing to block access to illegal media online, by governments seeking to keep records of citizen Internet activity, and by nation blocs to eliminate jurisdictional legal loopholes that shelter media pirates.

Back in courtroom 21A of the Federal Court of Australia, iiNet will argue it did not authorise illegal downloads over its network, and was not legally capable of informing offending customers, for instance by way of a pro-forma letter.

Its legal team says if it wins those “stand-alone” points, it wins the battle. But not the war, because it faces a determined foe that probably won’t hesitate to chase Australia’s fourth-largest burgeoning Internet provider into the High Court of Australia.

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