iiNet, Pirate Party slam AFACT political moves


Broadband provider iiNet and the Australian division of the Pirate Party have come out swinging in response to apparent moves by content providers to nudge the Federal Government about potential legislation to stop copyright infringement.

In an article published by the Australian yesterday
, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), which represents groups such as movie studios and was recently unsuccessful in its BitTorrent infringement lawsuit against iiNet, said the current state of Australian copyright law was “a threat to our digital economy” and appeared to suggest new legislation was necessary.

Subsequent to the iiNet trial, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy indicated the parties and industry should move towards a solution, but the Australian’s article said AFACT was complaining that ISPs were refusing to negotiate.

But in a statement yesterday, iiNet said the claim was “completely untrue”.

“In fact, a number of Australian ISPs, including iiNet, have successfully negotiated with rights holders for a range of online rights such as Village Roadshow, Fox Sports and Bloomberg,” iiNet said. “On the very day iiNet comprehensively won in the Federal Court, chief executive officer Michael Malone renewed his call [for negotiation on the court case], saying he was eager to engage with the film industry and copyright holders.”

iiNet described AFACT’s approach as “attempting to force an unworkable political solution” in an election year, rather than working with the ISP industry.

In a separate statement, the Pirate Party also came out swinging against AFACT.

Although AFACT did not explicitly back the ‘three strikes’ model being used overseas for cutting off file sharers’ internet connections, the Pirate Party said it was against such a system being implemented in Australia.

“Mechanisms like this will see entire households disconnected, upon an allegation from an industry association,” said party secretary Rodney Serkowski, noting the internet was increasingly the most important platform for communication and political discourse in 2010.

“The implementation of a notice and termination-style mechanism places an undue burden on internet service providers, who subsequently become defacto copyright cops,” he added, noting that instead, ISPs should be considered akin to the postal service, where information sent on their networks should be considered private.

But the Pirate Party also went further in its statement, warning that content providers had donated significant amounts to political parties in Australia.

“In fact, $205,000 was donated alone by Village Roadshow to the Federal ALP, with $487,791 donated in total to other political parties in the lead-up to the last election,” said Serkowski.
“Will this now translate into laws safeguarding failing business models by sacrificing time-honoured freedoms and protections?”

Image credit: Penny Mathews, royalty free