Friday, January 29, 2010

iiNet ruling due next week

iiNet ruling due next week

update | THE Federal Court has moved swiftly to hand down its ruling on a landmark internet copyright battle between Perth ISP iiNet and a group of Hollywood giants.

Both parties said that they did not expected a ruling on the mountain of technical evidence presented in the trial to emerge for at least a year as it drew to an end last November, but the court today announced that Justice Dennis Cowdroy would hand down his decision next week.

The trial has been watched closely by both the federal government and overseas observers. The group of Hollywood studios has attempted to persuade the court that iiNet can be held legally liable for alleged copyright infringement activity by its customers, so the decision is expected to have wide ramifications for internet providers.

The studios argued that iiNet should have taken "reasonable steps" to act on infringement notices that contained internet addresses of computers using the ISP's service to allegedly share illegal movies and music on peer-to-peer file networks.

The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), which acted on the studios' behalf, argued that iiNet authorised its customers by ignoring the notices.

However, iiNet told the court that it would fall foul of telecommunications laws regulating the use of consumer information if it were to act on them. It also argued that there were no reasonable steps it could take.

Internode founder and managing director Simon Hackett recently said that no matter what Justice Cowdroy ruled next month the matter was highly unlikely to be settled this year. He said that the losing side would appeal the decision.

"I reckon this time next year (December) we'll only just be barely getting a sense of what the outcome of that case is."

A swift settlement would help the government to decide on whether to tighten copyright laws to protect rights holders online, he said.

"Ironically, I would imagine that Canberra has the same problem that the rest of the industry has at this point. With that case sitting there on foot you may not want to change the law unless you understand what precedent you're being asked to change it against. The whole thing is placed in suspended animation for awhile," Mr Hackett said.

Australia is among a number of countries pondering increasing protection for copyright holders. One proposal is the controversial "three-strikes" rule which was passed into law in France early this month.

The law was introduced in May last year but it faced heavy political resistance and was overturned by the country's constitutional authority in June. A revised version of the law was passed by the same authority the following November.

AFACT said it was expecting a positive outcome.

"We are looking forward to the court's decision next week which we expect will determine the issue of iiNet's authorisation of copyright infringement by its users," the association said in a statement.

iiNet's solicitors did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

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