Friday 5 February 2010

Australian court finds safe harbour for ISPs

Australia's Federal Court has ruled that Internet Service Providers cannot be held liable for copyright infringements committed by their subscribers, dealing a blow to content owners in a closely-watched lawsuit against Australian Internet Service Provider iiNet. Justice Dennis Conroy found that whilst it was shown that iiNet had knowledge that its customers were committing copyright infringement, this knowledge did not equate to "authorizing" the activities ruling “While I find that iiNet had knowledge of infringements occurring, and did not act to stop them, such findings do not necessitate a finding of authorisation. I find that iiNet did not authorise the infringements of copyright of the iiNet users”. The case was brought by AFACT (the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) on behalf of a consortium of film and TV companies and centred on the ISP’s liability for illegal file-sharing committed by its customers. AFACT had asked for damages and wanted iiNet to be forced to disconnect any customers it knew were illegally sharing music online. The ISP had refused to forward file-sharing warning notices to its subscribers on behalf of the studios, saying they violated privacy provisions in Australian law. Instead, iiNet had taken to forwarding the notices from copyright holders to the police, along with its own terms and conditions showing it prohibited copyright infringement.

It is now likely that the Australian government will review legislation with a suggested move to enact a three strikes system.

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