Australian court absolves ISP from copyright policing

The studios had hired an online investigator firm to intercept
BitTorrent traffic over 59 weeks and record instances of iiNet users
downloading pirated movies.

The barrister for the studios, Tony Bannon, said that iiNet failed to
take any ‘‘reasonable steps’’ to combat copyright infringement.

He said iiNet’s practice of forwarding infringement notices to police
and stating in its terms and conditions that illegal downloading was
not permitted – while not enforcing this rule – did not constitute
reasonable steps.

However, iiNet’s legal counsel, Richard Cobden, said privacy
provisions in the Telecommunications Act prevented it from forwarding
the studios’ infringement notices to customers.

Cobden said the studios were trying to place an ‘‘unreasonable
burden’’ on ISPs and that ‘‘we will not take on the rights holders’
outsourcing of their rights enforcement’’.

iiNet argued that it was not required by law to act on ‘‘mere
allegations’’ of copyright infringement, that customers were innocent
until proven guilty in court, and that the case was like suing the
electricity company for things people do with their electricity.

In a summary of his 200-page judgment read out in court this morning,
Justice Cowdroy said the evidence established that iiNet had done no
more than to provide an internet service to its users.

He found that, while iiNet had knowledge of infringements occurring
and did not act to stop them, such findings did not necessitate a
finding of authorisation.

He said an ISP such as iiNet provided a legitimate communication
facility, which was neither intended nor designed to infringe

“iiNet is not responsible if an iiNet user uses that system to bring
about copyright infringement … the law recognises no positive
obligation on any person to protect the copyright of another,” Justice
Cowdroy said.