The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) has appealed a decision handed down in the Federal Court earlier this month. Justice Dennis Cowdroy ruled that Internet service provider iiNet had not authorised its users to breach copyright, and the ISP was cleared of any wrongdoing in regards to customers illegally downloading films and television shows using its network.
AFACT, representing Channel 7, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures and dozens of other film studios, said there were "good grounds" for appeal. AFACT executive director Neil Gane said the judgment did not follow already established copyright law in Australia.
“The court found large scale copyright infringements, that iiNet knew they were occurring, that iiNet had the contractual and technical capacity to stop them and iiNet did nothing about them,” he said. “If this decision stands, the ISPs have all the protection without any of the responsibility.”
Gane accused iiNet of ignoring the actions of copyright infringers, and said: “The decision harms not just the studios that produce and distribute movies, it but also Australia’s creative community and all those whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant entertainment industry.”
iiNet’s CEO, Michael Malone, responded to the appeal by stating that illegal downloads would continue, regardless of the outcome of the appeal lodged by the AFACT. He also said that continuing the legal process was not the right way to go.
“It is more than disappointing and frustrating that the studios have chosen this unproductive path,” Malone said. “This legal case has not stopped one illegal download and further legal appeals will not stop piracy."
Malone also said that the film studios admitted themselves during the court proceedings that an effective way to battle piracy was to make content more readily and cheaply available on the Internet.
He said there was growing evidence that content partnerships and agreements between ISPs, legal Web sites and copyright holders was doing more to reduce piracy and showcase copyright holders materials.
Malone said that iiNet’s Freezone was a prime example of these partnerships, as it provides subscribers with unmetered legal content that includes movies, music, television shows and sports events. iiNet revealed this week that more than 27 terabytes of data had been downloaded from its Freezone service between May 2009 and January 2010.
AFACT filed legal action against iiNet in November 2008 following a five month investigation by the organisation, with weekly notices sent to iiNet identifying the IP addresses of customers who had allegedly infringed the film companies' copyright. The case was heard in the Federal Court on 6 October, 2009, and immediately AFACT lawyers flagged almost 95,000 instances of alleged copyright infringement on iiNet's network. However the ISP was found to be not responsible for the actions of its users. The ruling was handed down on 4 February, 2010, with AFACT ordered to pay all of iiNet’s legal costs, which totalled $4 million.
The Notice of Appeal, which contains 15 grounds of appeal, was filed with the Federal Court last week and is likely to be heard later this year.