Landmark piracy case in Oz

In a landmark case, leading Aussie ISP iiNet has formally defended itself against claims by movie studios that it willingly permitted customers to download movies illegally. In the Federal Court Australia’s third largest ISP – which could face millions in damages – argued the case was “like suing the electricity company for things people do with their electricity”.

iiNet filed its defence claiming that the Copyright Act and Safe Harbour provisions introduced with the US free trade agreement stipulated that ISPs were not liable for copyright infringement by customers.

Late last year, seven major movie studios and the Seven Network filed suit against iiNet for allegedly allowing its users to download pirated movies and TV shows using BitTorrent. The landmark case will determine the lengths to which an internet provider must go to prevent illegal downloading on its network. A loss for the movie industry could leave it no choice but to go after individual downloaders, as has occurred in the US. However, if iiNet loses, all ISPs could be forced to disconnect customers identified by the movie studios as illegal downloaders.

In its defence, iiNet admitted that the movie studios held copyright to their libraries of films but was not yet ready to concede that its customers illegally downloaded them. Regardless, it said that it would not derive commercial benefit from customers downloading films illegally and would in fact incur more costs due to the additional bandwidth used.

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