iinet wins High Court decision on piracy

The High Court has thrown out an appeal to stop internet piracy.

The High Court has thrown out an appeal by some of the world's biggest media companies seeking to stop internet piracy by making Internet Service Providers responsible for policing unauthorised downloads.

A group of 34 international and Australian companies, which included Warner Bros, Disney and the Seven Network, had alleged that iiNet were authorising the infringement of their copyright each time its customers downloaded movies and television programs.

The movie companies stated that iiNet had the ability to prevent its customers from using a file-sharing system that infringed copyright, by issuing warnings and suspending or terminating customer accounts. They chose not to do so. However, the High Court found that iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers infringing copyright. They said that the extent of iiNet's power to prevent its customers from infringing copyright was limited to an indirect power to terminate its contractual relationship with its customers.

iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby said while the company did not support illegal downloading, it was not their role to monitor or punish the behaviour of its customers by terminating internet access. Apart from it not being legal for them to look at what their customers are doing online anyway and secondly because they do not believe they have the responsibility to be the judge, jury and policeman who is working out what their customers are doing and trying to stop it and control it.

On the other hand Australian Federation against Copyright Theft managing director Neil Gane said internet service providers needed to play a central role in preventing online copyright infringements and they do not because it was not in the internet providers' commercial interests to do so.

Mr Gane has called on the federal government to intervene to prevent piracy and suggested it follow the US model in which the film, television and music industries had come to an agreement with the five largest ISPs.

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