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Aussie ISP beats Hollywood on 'copyright' rap

Providing net access not same as OK-ing copyright theft

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The Australian Federal Court has found an Aussie ISP not responsible for copyright offences committed by its customers.

The Australian Federation against Copyright Theft claimed that iiNet authorised copyright theft by its customers.

Judge J Cowdroy accepted that iiNet users had used BitTorrent to infringe copyright, but that the number was far less than alleged by AFCT and that iiNet in no way authorised the infringements.

The judge found that providing the means to infringement, internet access, was not the same as authorising infringement - BitTorrent was.

In summary the judge said:

the key question is: Did iiNet authorise copyright infringement? The Court answers such question in the negative for three reasons: first because the copyright infringements occurred directly as a result of the use of the BitTorrent system, not the use of the internet, and the respondent did not create and does not control the BitTorrent system; second because the respondent did not have a relevant power to prevent those infringements occurring; and third because the respondent did not sanction, approve or countenance copyright infringement.

Judge Cowdroy said the case had attracted worldwide attention - "So much so that I understand this is the first Australian trial to be twittered or tweeted." He said he'd approved this because of the public interest and because it seemed fitting for a copyright trial involving the internet.

iiNet welcomed the judgment and said it remained "a good corporate citizen and even better copyright citizen".

The case was brought by all the major Hollywood studios. The judge accepted there was widespread copying of their films, not just in Australia but worldwide, but the studios feeling that "something must be done" was not enough to find iiNet guilty.

iiNet customers were also accused of creating physical DVD copies of Hollywood films - but the court found that the only people who definitely did this were AFCT investigators.

The full judgement, all 200 pages of it, and, mercifully, a summary, is available here. ®

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