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iiNet not liable for copyright theft

10 March, 2010
By Allison Orr

In the case of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) against iiNet, the Australian Federal Court has found in favour of the ISP.

The case was closely watched by Internet commentators and online activists, as the decision sets a legal precedent as to how much an ISP is required to do to prevent copyright theft.  In addition, it was the first Australian trial to be covered on Twitter and the first trial of its kind in the world to proceed to hearing and judgement.

The suit was first filed in November 2008 by AFACT, a group of Hollywood studios including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warners Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Disney. 

Perth-based iiNet, Australia’s third largest ISP, advertised their broadband service by saying, "The question is, how big is a Gig?" The answer: "A Gig is about 500 hi-res photos or about 300 songs or five episodes of the Golden Girls. At iiNet we explain this to you so you can choose a broadband plan that’s right for you… it’s not the size of the Gig, it’s how you choose to use it."

iiNet CEO, Michael Malone, apologised for the ad, and while the judgement found that iiNet’s subscribers had infringed copyright, it found iiNet was not liable for how its customers use their service.  “…the law recognises no positive obligation on any person to protect the copyright of another,” said Justice Cowdroy.

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