AFACT v iiNet: Tiny Bits of BitTorrent Transfers Aren’t Illegal

iiNet’s chief barrister argued today that there is insufficient evidence to show that when customers shared movies using BitTorrent, they shared "substantial parts" of said material, an essential requirement for proving infringement. Furthermore, in order to verify AFACT claims, iiNet itself would have to infringe copyright.

AFACTThe trial continues in the copyright infringement case of AFACT – representing several Hollywood studios – and Aussie ISP iiNet (multiple links to all our earlier coverage can be found here, here, here and here)

The case progressed in the Federal Court today, with iiNet barrister Richard Cobden continuing with his closing submissions.

As detailed earlier in the case, after AFACT sent many thousands of copyright infringement notices to iiNet, the ISP responded by sending them to the police. Cobden defended that decision today, claiming that the notices could constitute evidence of copyright crimes.

While the studios had earlier insisted that they would never sanction unlawful investigation methods, ITNews quotes Cobden as saying that in gathering that evidence, it was likely the investigators themselves had also committed offenses, breaching section 132AJ(1) of the Copyright Act.

The barrister said that both investigators committed primary acts of infringement online, and while AFACT had earlier claimed that iiNet users burned copyright material onto DVDs after downloading it, in fact the only evidence of that being done relates to the copies made by AFACT investigators.

Continuing to attack the evidence provided by AFACT and its anti-piracy partner DtecNet, Cobden returned to an earlier assertion that DtecNet investigators did not behave as normal BitTorrent users would. Regular users would allow their torrent client to connect to any peers, but DtecNet filtered out any that weren’t issued with iiNet IP addresses.

ARN quotes Cobden as saying this action was “foolish” as it slowed download times to several days. As we heard earlier in the case, this led to investigators counting the same infringement more than once.

Last week, Cobden argued that AFACT hadn’t provided any evidence that iiNet customers had engaged in copyright infringement as they were only sharing small parts of files (such is the nature of BitTorrent), rather than the “substantial” parts, as required under the law. In order to prove his point, Cobden went on to cite an earlier copyright case.

In 2002, Australian TV station Channel 9 sued Channel 10 citing infringement under the Copyright Act 1968. Channel 10 had broadcast short sections of Channel 9 programs The Today Show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Days of Our Lives and Sale of the New Century in their television show called The Panel. The view was that of the 11 segments played, only 3 were long enough to constitute infringement.

As anti-piracy tracking companies such as DtecNet only record an instance of alleged copyright infringement timed to a single second, Cobden is arguing that there is no evidence to prove any “substantial” part of any movie was shared by iiNet users.

Cobden went on to insist that in order to confirm that evidence of infringement provided by AFACT was indeed accurate (before passing notices to their customers), it would be necessary for the ISP to breach copyright.

“If one wanted to check the DtecNet evidence and see on a range of IP addresses supplied by iiNet that infringing material was online, the only way to do it would be to use the BitTorrent client like DtecNet did, construct the parameters of the IP address range, locate the file and compare it to details in the spreadsheets,” said Cobden, as quoted by ITNews.

Cobden said that if iiNet passed unproven infringement notices to its customers, it would face problems if the account holder disputed the claims. After all, iiNet had only AFACT’s word that an infringement had been carried out, but absolutely no proof or other information to have a meaningful discussion on the issue.

It is likely that Cobden will finish his closing submissions next Tuesday 24th. The Internet Industry Association’s application to become a ‘friend of the court’ will be heard on the afternoon of that day, bringing the original date forward by two days.

The case will then end either next Wednesday or Thursday, but readers are advised not to hold their breath for the verdict – it could take several months to arrive.

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