AFACT wants ‘automated’ BitTorrent violation system


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


    • I’ve always wondered about the legalities of how they gathered their information

        • Well they could be seeding the movies themselves and just jot down IP address that connect and download or jot down IP address of people seeding.

          • They simply download public torrents themselves and then do IP lookups on all the pellegal (ople downloading the torrent

            Thats not illegal (since they own the copyrighted software they are downloading)

          • If they seed it themselves and capture the IP doesn’t that imply that that particular movie etc is fine to download since they the copyright owner are sharing it?

  1. Does anyone have any details of how the “alleged copyright infringement actions taking place” are being evidenced by AFACT? I’d be interested to see.

    My suspicion would be that they are just getting IP addresses of seeders from torrent trackers, but that doesn’t prove anything except the torrent tracker advertised the IP address does it? Unless they are actually downloading content from seeders? Any other ideas?

    • I believe during iiNet trail, it was revealed that the do actually connect to the IP addresses in the tracker and attempt to download (parts of) the file.

      • That would make sense as much as anything I can think of…

        It sounds like it would be awfully hard to verify by any third part after the fact, unless that user happened to be still seeding whenever someone tries to verify. How does this become anything more than “he did because we say he did.” Anyone can create a log saying all sorts of things…

      • And they download parts of the file from someone at that IP address, not necessarily the account holder.

        Holding a customer legally accountable for the actions as claimed should require a higher level of review than simply having some company connecting an IP address to a packet of data, but most importantly, any costs to bring an action should be met at least initially by the “copyright troll” and then upon conviction, possibly the accused.

        Never should the costs of this trawling for the copyright holders be borne by the general internet using population. Their wish to have the costs of their own copyright enforcement be placed upon the IPS’s and therefore its customers has about as much merit as me demanding that ISP’s also take on the costs of my own enforcement regime however small or large it may be.

        They should also consider that if they can achieve anywhere close to 100% of what they want, they’ll simply drive people to pirate the old fashion “sneakernet” way and friends will get together with their collections of USB harddrives and share the material “off the wire”

    • It also presumes that the IP addresses are “correct” – it’s relatively trivial to jump behind a proxy, a VPN, or fudge your IP with raw sockets and source routing.

      Or open your Wi-Fi and say one of your neighbours or a war-driver did it.

      Now you have plausible deniability. It’s up to them to prove it was physically you.

      • acutally because its a copyright, and thats commercial law, you dont even have to respond to thier invalid court claims, as it pertains to a legal fiction and not a person.

      • Yes, the fact that it is not too difficult to fudge your IP is a bother if, for some reason, what AFACT gathers does hold up to some sort of legal recourse. It can’t be very robust as far as I can see. Very possible to get false positives. But then again, civil matters only need to be proven “in all probability” and I guess it would be a civil and not criminal matter? Might be good enough evidence for a civil matter?
        I, for one, would be very disappointed to live in a country where my ISP is going to disconnect me based on this sort of IP harvesting and nothing else. I’m not moving to the USA any time soon!

        On a slightly different but related thought, how could some sort of agreement between an ISP and AFACT (or a similar organization) to disconnect allegedly “infringing” users not amount to something like cartel conduct? That is what AFACT want isn’t it? I can’t think of any laws off the top of my head that would cover it, but that is very nasty conduct similar to what laws regarding cartel price fixing and fair competition laws cover. It is different enough that maybe nothing does cover it at the moment? Just as nasty if not more nasty than cartel conduct if you ask me though.


    Sounds like they want a bottomless pit revenue raising project not dissimilar to speed cameras.

    • As soon as AFACT start offering the ISPs payment for serving the notices etc., the ISPs will be into it like pigs to the trough at feeding time.

      Just like the IIA has changed its position on filtering.

      • Actually most likely not, as I believe them doing anything further would breach privacy laws and the like. Also have no doubt Linton would fight it as he’s not stupid (they offer cheap, high quota plans: he’d scare off all his customers).

  3. Surely this can’t help AFACT in the upcoming appeal?

    It just shows that they don’t give a rats arse about the law. They will keep pushing ISP’s to do their work for them no matter what the ruling is.

  4. It would be the same process they used in iiNet trial. The legality of the detection was never questioned – so I can’t imagine it’s “borderline illegal”.

    During the trial – both the court (Trial and Full Federal Court), and iiNet accepted the evidence was accurate.

    As for this comment:
    “It just shows that they don’t give a rats arse about the law”, I think all it shows is they are attempting to use the precedents and rulings used by the Full Federal Court.

    I think you need to re familiarise yourself with the FFC ruling if you think that iiNet “won” the case. iiNet didn’t lose the case, but they certainly lost the defences they were relying on to keep them out of liability – and they almost certainly wont apply second time around.

  5. Oh I like this, ever so much.

    AFACT are simply a revenue stream. Just like RIAA, MPAA, et all. They don’t exist to protect the artist. They exist to protect the eco-system that has feed from artist effort, for decades.

    AFACT are attempting to “fix” the small issue of law, due process and the reason for having a courts system, and simply bypass it. It’s also extremely lazy. Why raise a legal claim, when you can use the machine-gun approach of fining everyone for participating in a bit-torrent stream, and claim orders-of-magnitudes in “lost” income. I doubt this is spurred by the court case, other than perhaps with respect to costs.

    It’s a highly effective way of avoiding both entirely and perpetuating the myth that bob downloading a single copy of Lady Gaga’s latest monstrosity is akin to 30,000 copies of EMI’s entire back catalogue as “lost sales”.

    No, we have a courts system for a reason. If AFACT can prove a claim, then they can get recompense. If they can’t, too bad.

  6. Why is there still an argument over the legality of how the information was obtained?

    AFACT were authorised by the copyright owners to get it, yes they would have technically downloaded the torrents themselves but as they had authorisation so they weren’t breaching copyright.

    • No we are talking about how they get/confirm the IP address, not what the company is downloading. Also if it has been authorised by the copyright holder for them to seed it, then wouldn’t everyone that is leeching that seed be legally obtaining the file?

      • They don’t care about downloading. That they at most get you for theft of 10 dollars.
        Uploading is where the “damages” are, you have changed from being a petty theif, to being a full blown copyright infringement outfit!!11 distributing copyrighted materials for your own gain! Problem is, if you charged everyone in a torrent cloud as a copyright uploader, and added e damages, the total cost would be astronomical compared to the number of lost sales.
        It’s the fact that the law is designed for dealing with people that are manufacturing fake copies to sell at markets etc. NOT for each consumer uploading (parts) of what they are downloading. The fines for “distribution” include extra costs for damages over and above the actual cost of a single download.

        So basically, They only care about your uploads, they personally don’t distribute copyrighted material.

      • Well sharing the information is how they get the IP addresses.

        As for why isn’t legal to downloaded it since they’re uploading it, them uploading would merely be a byproduct of getting the IP addresses, the fact you’re trying to get the file at all is what they are after.

  7. lol this is funny…

    There are plenty of ways to skin a CAT.

    The bunch of tools don’t know how the population of the world works.

  8. “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.”

    Weren’t you just saying, Mr Linton, that on the NBN all ISPs will be the same?

    Lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas… eh John?

    • Linton is likely alluding to the fact that all ISPs (assumed government bias/backroom dealings aside) will have equal access (in the sense that no ISP will act as both wholesale/service provider) to the network, and wholesale pricing.

      Which ever way you cut it, Exetel are a budget or ‘value’ ISP and, even if they’re plans are targeted toward high-volume users, Linton’s statement that larger industry players are (for lack of a better word) harbouring a higher percentage of potentially copyright ‘infringing’ users is completely reasonable.

      Based on this reasoning alone, it’s pretty obvious what’s occurring here. It might not be a revelation (chasing vulnerable targets for precedent), but it shouldn’t be tolerated.

  9. pretty simple just block all the IPs outside Australia, and record all the IPs that are connected to their torrent clients

    but seriously they should use their own resources and money to get their own jobs done not trying to make others wipe their asses for them

  10. If the content owners spent as much effort on making their content legally available via good quality streaming / download services as they did on stupid legal moves like this, everyone would be happier.
    Consumers have clearly shown that they want digital downloads as an option. Make this legal and people will pay. It’s not rocket science.

  11. The more I read about AFACT the more I realise that they are just in it for the cash and at the end of the day, just themselves. I have long struggled to see their side of the story given the industries complete reluctance to move forward. I think those who compare them to a mafia outfit have pretty much hit the nail on the head. I’d love to know what gets said in these secret behind closed doors deals and what ‘offers’ are made.

  12. Guilty before proven innocent…. the lawyers & courts would have a field day with that.

  13. I love the way Linton shot his mouth off last year about iinet not complying with AFACT and in doing so he has now made himself a target for AFACT. I see he now sings a different, yet still arrogant, tune. Karma;s gonna get ya Johnny boy and you know what they say about payback.

  14. Yes would be interested to see how the harvest the data to decide who to fine – and weather using a VPN Proxy ( google OpenVPN & Freedom ) to attach to the swarms on BitTorrent and have P2P encyption set to forced would do to there data gathering…

    • It would mean you wouldn’t get picked up in Australia but rather the IP you’re using (the one at the other end of the VPN) would be the one seen.

      If that happens to be the US then things might start to get interesting, especially since they are trying to implement (or maybe already have implemented) a 3 strikes rule. As soon as they track down the source is a VPN company they’ll be issuing warrants for your information, and since the US and Australia are close politically no doubt this will be passed on.

      But I wouldn’t expect a knock on the door from AFACT, I’m be more expecting one from the AFP, asking things like why are using a VPN for your sharing of illegal copyrighted material, and what else are you doing that requires yourself to be hidden?

      People who think using a VPN is making themselves safe are kidding themselves, it just makes it look like you’ve got something to hide.

    • there are plenty of comments on ExtraTorrent from users who have been DCMA’ed while torrenting via VPNs.

  15. Sneakernet is just more convenient nowadays. With portables drives and USB sticks you could move alot more than via p2p.

    Just remember 6 degree of separation

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