The Internet Industry Association and Pirate Party Australia have both welcomed Federal Court Justice Dennis Cowdroy's ruling handed down today in a court case involving Australian ISP iiNet and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). Justice Cowdroy ruled in favour of iiNet, finding that the ISP did not authorise copyright infringement.
A post on the Internet Industry Association's Web site today described the decision "as one of the most significant for ISPs and intermediaries generally."
The post also says that the court case proceedings and judgement highlight "whether, and in what circumstances, an ISP should bear legal liability for the infringing acts of third parties."
Chief executive of the IIA, Peter Coroneos, told PC World that the court's decision drew "an important policy distinction between provision of access and the conduct of users." While the IIA could not yet provide a complete analysis of the case, Coroneos said that the decision separated the ISP's responsibilities — provision of an Internet service — and how the user made use of that service through software like BitTorrent.
Coroneos said that IIA has "never condoned copyright infringement, and we respect the rights of copyright holders."
The post on the IIA's Web site says: "Regardless of the decision in iiNet, the safe harbour regime remains in urgent need of reform. At present it protects only carriage service providers. In the future it must recognise and protect a wider range of intermediaries, in particular online content hosts, libraries and search portals. This is something the IIA will continue to pursue in 2010."
Coroneos said that Justice Cowdroy's decision also had ramifications for overseas ISPs facing similar litigation, and was being monitored around the world. "The decision will not be binding in overseas courts but it will nevertheless be important on the binding of liability to ISPs."
"Globally, pressure from the copyright industry for ISPs to regulate the activities of those who subscribe to their internet services is mounting through multi-country negotiations for an Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)," the IIA Web site post states.
During the court proceedings, the IIA requested leave to be an amicus curiae — or "friend of the court" — in order to provide a "broader perspective" for the case. However, leave was denied by Justice Cowdroy, who found that IIA's contribution was not “useful and different” from other parties already involved in the proceedings.
The Pirate Party Australia issued a press release following today's decision, stating the decision as "a victory for common sense."
"This is a good decision by Justice Cowdroy, and reflects that there is no legal basis or obligation for any ISP to act in the interest of copyright holders, or to expect that they should disconnect any entity upon allegation of infringement without judicial oversight and due process," party secretary Rodney Serkowski said in the press release.
"We still believe that reforms of the Copyright Act are necessary in order to make them more representative of the realities of the digital paradigm, and better reflect the way in which we relate to information, culture and knowledge."
The Pirate Party Australia was founded in 2009 and is striving for federal electoral registration, which requires 500 members. According to the "Initial Draft Policy" on its Web site, the party supports "the basic tenets of freedom of culture, the inalienable right of the nation's citizens to liberty and privacy, the protection of the freedoms provided by the newly evolving, global information society and the restoration of the freedoms and balance lost with the encroachment of harmful, overbearing intellectual monopoly."
AFACT has expressed its disappointment at the ruling in a press release issued earlier today.