AFACT v iiNet: Day 7 – Investigators Condoned Infringement?

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Day seven of the trial between AFACT and Aussie ISP iiNet. In cross-examination of anti-piracy bosses from the movie studios, Paramount said it would complain to BitTorrent Inc about the unauthorized use of its logo, while AFACT's boss was forced to admit his investigators could have themselves condoned infringements.

AFACTIt’s day seven in the copyright infringement case of AFACT – representing several Hollywood studios – and Aussie ISP iiNet (earlier coverage of day one, day two, day three, day four , day five and day six).

Today iiNet’s lawyers cross-examined representatives from 20th Century Fox, Disney, Warner and Paramount via video link.

After being accused earlier in the trial of having deals in place with BitTorrent Inc, ZDNet reports that Paramount admitted it had a deal with the company for it to prevent illegal copies of its movies being shared via its BitTorrent software. However, this seems more likely to be a filter applied to search results on the BitTorrent.com site, rather than any obstruction in the software itself. Any notion that BitTorrent Inc spied or spies on users of its software in order to restrict their activities would be a disaster for the company.

Paramount could not confirm if the deal prevented piracy or not but acknowledged that it ran from October 6 2006 until October 6 2008, and had now expired. Paramount had an option to extend it for a further year, but did not.

As mentioned in our earlier coverage, iiNet lawyers suggested that the publishing of studio logos (including that of Paramount) on the BitTorrent.com website could have caused some confusion for potential BitTorrent downloaders.

However, according to a report, Paramount could be set to lodge a formal complaint with BitTorrent Inc over what it described as “unauthorized use” of its logo. This development seems to be somewhat of a cheap shot by Paramount. Their logo has been on the BitTorrent.com site for a very long time (and remains there today) so the ‘revelation’ in court that it exists there should hardly come as a surprise – they were business partners after all.

iiNet lawyers put it to 20th Century Fox anti-piracy boss Ronald Wheeler that making material available online helped to reduce piracy. While he could not confirm that immediately, he did say that because content is available online, it counters the argument that the only way to obtain the content is illegally.

Warner representative David Kaplan confirmed that his company also had a deal with BitTorrent Inc but although he couldn’t be certain, he felt the deal had expired since the MPA hadn’t kept him updated about it.

iiNet lawyers also produced a document which was alleged to be license agreement between Warner and the defunct Wurld Media, to distribute content via P2P. While Kaplan admitted the deal was now dead, he confirmed the authenticity of the document.

A further interesting development came after AFACT chief Neil Gane admitted that his organization’s investigative techniques – hiring someone to pretend to be a regular iiNet customer in order to engage in file-sharing of copyright works with other iiNet customers – could be construed as copyright infringement in itself.

In last week’s court sessions, iiNet lawyers put it to Gane that AFACT could have been involved in condoning copyright infringement, referring to the actions mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Gane admitted that there would have been occasions where AFACT’s own investigators had undertaken an activity which had been described by iiNet lawyers as “an infringement of copyright”.

“And that’s something you will tolerate happening at your own premises?” said iiNet lawyer Richard Cobden.

“It’s an investigative technique,” Gane replied

The case continues.

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