On 20 April 2012, the litigation between a group of rightsholders in films against internet service provider iiNet came to an end. The High Court dismissed the appeal by the film rightsholders, and held that iiNet was not liable for the peer-to-peer filesharing by its subscribers of the films at issue in the case.
The statement from the High Court says:
‘The court observed that iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright in the appellants’ films. Rather, the extent of iiNet’s power to prevent its customers from infringing the appellants’ copyright was limited to an indirect power to terminate its contractual relationship with its customers. Further, the court held that the information contained in the AFACT notices, as and when they were served, did not provide iiNet with a reasonable basis for sending warning notices to individual customers containing threats to suspend or terminate those customers’ accounts.’
There is a useful summary of the case on the Australian Copyright Council’s website, and an audio summary by Miriam Stiel, partner at Allens Arthur Robinson here. Also see commentary from law firms Corrs Westgarth Chambers, Freehills, and Cornwall Stoddart.
While the case resolves the dispute between the film rightsholders and iiNet in relation to the instances of filesharing at issue in the case, the broader issue of a workable system for managing unauthorised online use of content remains unresolved. The problem is a global one. A range of approaches have been adopted internationally, both through legislation (such as in France and New Zealand), and through industry agreement (such as the Memorandum of Agreement reached in the US, which included the formation of the Center for Copyright Information).