The Australian organisation representing film and TV studios’ anti-piracy efforts has written to at least one local ISP requesting a meeting to discuss implementing an “automated processing system” for copyright infringement notices to be distributed to customers.
The organisation — known as the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft or AFACT — represents a number of multinational film and TV studios concerned about online piracy of their content through avenues such as peer to peer file sharing service BitTorrent. It is best known for its high-profile legal battle with ISP iiNet over BitTorrent, which is expected to reach the High Court this year.
It is believed that AFACT considers early judgements in the case to have opened the door for it to legally approach Australian ISPs about online copyright infringement, provided it supplied the right level of detail about the alleged offences. In the past few months, a number of ISPs have confirmed the organisation has approached them about the matter.
In one letter to Exetel sent by AFACT yesterday and seen by Delimiter, AFACT requested a meeting with the ISP.
“AFACT is fully aware that Exetel has a Copyright Policy in place and AFACT would welcome the opportunity to meet with Exetel to discuss how AFACT and Exetel can work together to enhance the efficacy of Exetel’s graduated response process,” the letter from AFACT executive director Neil Gane stated. “For example, we could discuss the implementation of a standardised automated processing system that could integrate with your current network.”
Currently, different ISPs take different approaches to the issue of online piracy, with some committing to forward on copyright infringement notices to users, followed by potential disconnection of their service, and others either ignoring the letters or forwarding them to law enforcement authorities.
In its letter to Exetel, AFACT noted that it was also sending the ISP a comprehensive spreadsheet detailing “a sample of up to 100 instances per week” of alleged copyright infringement actions taking place by Exetel customers. The letter stated that a high degree of detail was contained in the spreadsheet — including the date and time of the alleged infringement, the IP address on which it occured, the name and detailed of the file shared online, the name of the AFACT member company holding the copyright and more.
The information was compiled, according to AFACT, by DtecNet Software, which specialises in copyright infringement tracking and also supplied information to AFACT to aid with the iiNet court case.
“In line with our commitment to protect our member companies’ content, AFACT is investigating infringements of copyright in movies and television shows in Australia by customers of Exetel taking place on Exetel’s networks through the use of the BitTorrent “peer-to-peer” protocol (BitTorrent),” AFACT wrote.
Separately, an AFACT spokesperson today said the organisation didn’t comment on “operational matters”, but noted that the full Federal Court had found it was “reasonable and effective” for an ISP to warn its customers not to infringe copyright.
” They also found that that ISPs had other effective steps under customer contracts that they could take to prevent repeat infringements and that that account holders are responsible for the infringing use of their accounts,” the AFACT spokesperson said.
It’s the second time that AFACT has contacted Exetel on the BitTorrent issue this month; the organisation wrote to the ISP expressing similar sentiments earlier this month, setting a time limit of seven days for a response, and noting it would take an unspecified action after that point. On that occasion, Exetel chief executive John Linton’s response to the letter was short and sharp.
In his response to the new letter, Linton CC’d in a number of journalists and Exetel staff late yesterday, and took a similar approach, requesting that Exetel would be “more than happy” to comply with the law if AFACT would point out the applicable legal framework, and would forward alleged copyright infringement notices if AFACT would use what he referred to as the internationally agreed upon email format for sending them.
“The crude and extremely difficult manual format your organization chose to adopt during your previous ‘program’ (and again now) is pointlessly cumbersome and costly; I assume for you as well as any ISP you choose to send your notices to,” Linton wrote.
“While we could, again, go to the expense of taking a highly qualified [senior counsel’s] advice (a more competent one than you chose to use in that dog’s breakfast of a law suit you brought against iiNet) about our requirements under the current Federal and NSW laws to do that or any more than we do today, I would think, would result in the same advice as last time – we have the appropriate written advice, on which we are currently relying, that we have no obligations to do more than we currently do all as the law stands today.”
Linton also questioned why AFACT would target it and not larger ISPs.
“As you must know Exetel is a very small company and compared to Telstra, Optus and TPG, we carry a minute percentage the type of traffic you refer to in the first paragraph of your letter,” he wrote. “Why you would choose to threaten us in the ways you have chosen to do when we couldn’t possibly affect your clients in the ways a major carrier does can only be conjectured upon.”
Image credit: Delimiter