news iiNet has revealed that Australia’s High Court will lay down its verdict in the national broadband provider’s high-profile legal battle with a coalition of film and TV studios next Friday 20 April at 10AM, in a move which will finally provide closure to the long-running online copyright infringement case.
“iiNet Ltd has been advised by the High Court of Australia that the judgment in the appeal — Roadshow & Ors vs iiNet Ltd will be handed down at 10:00AM AEST on Friday, April 20, 2012,” iiNet said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange this morning. It added that its chief executive, Michael Malone (pictured, above), and chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, would hold a media conference immediately following the verdict, at 1PM AEST.
A group of 34 parties, comprised of most major Australian and American film studios and led by umbrella organisation the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, took iiNet to court in 2009 after claiming iiNet had “authorised” its users to download pirated movies and television over the Internet. After the original decision of not guilty made in February 2010 was appealed, the full Australian Federal Court ruled in February 2011 that iiNet was not responsible for the illegal downloading.
However the parties against iiNet decided to attempt to appeal the decision yet again, lodging an application soon after on the 24th March 2011, with the High Court of Australia for a special leave to appeal grant. In August the High Court agreed to hear the case.
iiNet CEO Michael Malone has consistently called on the industry to come to a “workable” solution to piracy problems instead of litigating the issue. iiNet itself provides access to film and TV content through a bundled IPTV set-top box developed by a partner company, FetchTV. “I know the Internet industry is eager to work with the film industry and copyright holders to develop a workable solution,” Malone said in August last year. “We remain committed to developing an industry solution that sees more content readily and cheaply available online as well as a sensible model for dealing with repeated copyright infringement activity.”
However, AFACT and its member organisations haven’t been so keen. In July AFACT wrote 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.
It is believed that AFACT considers early judgements in its case against iiNet 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 mid-2011, a number of ISPs have confirmed the organisation has approached them about the matter.
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.
iiNet and AFACT are also engaged in out of court talks regarding Internet piracy, with the Federal Attorney-General’s Department holding a series of meetings through late 2011 and early this year between iiNet, AFACT and other telcos, content owners and representative groups. However, consumer representatives have been explicitly barred from the talks, and the department has consistently declined — even through the Freedom of Information request process — requests by media outlets for more information about what is being discussed.
The High Court’s decision — whichever way it goes — is viewed by many in the industry as a long-awaited landmark announcement which will guide the way ISPs and content owners deal with copyright infringement issues for the foreseeable future.