Studios sue Australian ISP over video piracy

Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, backed by all the major networks, says iiNet has ignored requests to discipline its customers for infringing on film copyrights.

Suzanne Tindal Special to CNET News
2 min read

Australian telecommunications provider iiNet on Thursday was dragged into court as major film studios filed a case against the ISP for allegedly letting its users download pirated movies and television series.

According to the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, speaking on behalf of Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Disney Enterprises, and the Seven Network, thousands cases of pirated movies and television shows have passed through iiNet's network without iiNet doing anything about it.

AFACT Executive Director Adrianne Pecotic claimed that iiNet had ignored requests from the companies to discipline its customers for breaking copyright laws.

"We have provided in this instance, over a five-month period, the IP addresses of thousands of people who are iiNet customers who are using iiNet Internet access to infringe copyright. iiNet has several options within its power to prevent that. They have not done so," Pecotic told ZDNet Australia.

"This is not about iiNet policing its network. There's no suggestion that they have to police their network. What we're saying, and what the law says, is that when they know that copyright infringement is occurring, they have a legal obligation to prevent it," she continued.

Options the Internet service provider had, Pecotic said, were giving the customer notice, limiting download speeds, or suspending browsers or P2P protocols. She said 9 out of 10 people in the United States who were given notice did not pirate films again.

The companies want a court order forcing iiNet to prevent its customers from engaging in copyright infringement over its network. If the ruling goes their way, they will likely claim damages, but Pecotic would not name figures.

When asked if other ISPs were undertaking such measures when sent infringement notices, Pectotic made vague reference to unspecified agreements between ISPs and content providers in the U.S. and U.K. markets, saying only that she intended to focus on iiNet because it was the focus of the court case.

She would not say if any other ISP was also ignoring infringement notices, but when asked if there might be future court cases, she said, "We wouldn't rule out any future litigation, no."

On the choice of ISP, Pecotic said only that iiNet was the third-largest ISP in Australia, and as such, she didn't consider it to be small.

According to Pecotic, 50,000 people in Australia are employed in companies affected by the film industry, which all feel the brunt of pirating films and TV, and the faster broadband gets, the worse piracy gets.

The case will come back before the court on the December 17, and Pectotic considered that it would run for about 12 months.

iiNet did not reply to requests for comment in time for publication.

Suzanne Tindal of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.