iiNet CEO Michael Malone to be ISP's first witness

Both sides using their leaders first up in their civil case at the Federal Court of Australia

iiNet CEO Michael Malone will be the Internet service provider’s (ISP) first witness in its civil case against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

The news comes as opening arguments in the civil court case between AFACT and iiNet being heard by Justice Cowdroy in the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney came to a close yesterday.

While Malone won’t take the stand until later next week or potentially in three weeks time – depending on how long it takes to run through AFACT’s witnesses – it means both sides of the case are starting off with their respective leaders.

Today AFACT’s executive director, Neil Gane, will be the first witness in the trial after iiNet’s senior counsellor, Richard Cobden, took longer than expected to finish his opening arguments.

The Case so Far: On the first day in the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney (October 6), AFACT presented a host of arguments, accusing iiNet of not doing enough to stop its customers using peer to peer networks (BitTorrent) to share copyrighted files.

Legal representatives for the film studios and TV stations claimed a 59-week investigation into iiNet and its customers discovered "rampant copyright infringements".

Civil case lawyers for AFACT - which represents the film studios - said "there were 94,942 instances of iiNet customers making available online unauthorised copies" of movies that included titles such as Batman Begins, Dark Knight and Harry Potter.

On October 7, AFACT finished its arguments and presented its key documents. One of the documents, sighted by Computerworld, showed email communications between key iiNet employees, including CEO Michael Malone, discussing how to deal with infringement notices.

In outlining iiNet’s arguments, however, senior counselor, Richard Cobden, described AFACT’s case as a “novel composition and adventurous” and “a dramatic extension of the application of the law”. He alleged AFACT’s 94,942 claim was “artificially inflated by a contrived process”.

Yesterday, Cobden also said many of the film studios that are represented by AFACT had contractual agreements with the P2P website used by many of iiNet’s customers to share files, BitTorrent.

He said many of the film studio’s logos were displayed on the BitTorrent site. He also argued industry bodies, ISPs and AFACT had been in discussions for four or five years over the issue of the sharing of copyrighted files, but AFACT had suddenly dropped out to pursue the case against iiNet.

The case, being heard by Justice Cowdroy will run for two weeks on, two weeks break and then two weeks on again. It is expected, however, to be taken to the High Court regardless of who wins this round.

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Tags iiNetAustralian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT)Federal Court of Australia

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Trevor Clarke

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