Studios Urge ISP to Admit Piracy, Stop Wasting Court’s Time

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Several studios are currently engaged in legal action against Australian ISP iiNet. They accuse iiNet of failing to take steps to stop its subscribers from sharing files by disconnecting them from the Internet. Now anti-piracy group AFACT says iiNet should just admit its customers are pirates, and stop wasting the court's time.

Several studios including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Disney Enterprises, Inc. and the Seven Network (Australia’s top free-to-air broadcaster), announced last year that they were to sue Australian ISP iiNet for copyright infringement.

The studios, under the umbrella group AFACT, stated that iiNet “failed to take reasonable steps, including enforcing its own terms and conditions, to prevent known unauthorized use of copies of the companies’ films and TV programs by iiNet’s customers via its network.” AFACT had demanded disconnection for alleged infringers but iiNet refused. According to AFACT, since iiNet knew that its subscribers were infringing copyright, it too was breaching copyright by “authorizing” the infringements. Legal action followed.

Just recently AFACT was forced to drop some of the charges against iiNet, withdrawing the claim that the ISP was the primary copyright infringer and directly responsible when it refused to disconnect alleged pirates within its subscriber base. The allegation, know as “conversion”, is that iiNet interfered with the studio’s “right of possession”, a breach of their rights.

AFACT tried to convince Federal Court Judge Justice Dennis Cowdroy that iiNet was guilty of “conversion” but he disagreed, kicked out the claim and ordered the studios to pay iiNet’s costs for that element.

The remaining claim against iiNet is that the ISP is liable for the copyright infringing actions of its subscribers, something it denies. However, AFACT are increasing the pressure on iiNet to again admit that its customers are pirates, something it tried to do earlier. They say that since they have lots of evidence that iiNet’s subscribers are pirates, iiNet should just admit it and stop wasting the court’s time.

“AFACT has presented evidence of tens of thousands of instances of copyright infringement by iiNet’s users,” said a spokesperson for the anti-piracy group. He claimed that iiNet had already accepted the validity of that evidence adding, “To make those acknowledgements and not accept that those customers are engaged in copyright infringement is simply a tactic by iiNet designed to delay and frustrate the running of the case.”

iiNet chief Michael Malone disagreed, saying that it’s not up to iiNet to admit anything, it’s up to AFACT and the studios to bring the evidence. “If they come and say that a person is committing piracy, it’s their obligation to prove that,” he said.

The case is due to return to court 9th June 2009.

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