A victory for common sense

In 2008 a number of film industry companies took Australian Internet service provider iiNet to court in an effort to make the ISP liable for illegal downloads made by its users. The film studios argued that by not acting to prevent illegal file sharing on its network iiNet was essentially “authorising” the activity and was therefore liable. The studios lost that case, Federal Court Justice Dennis Cowdroy finding that the ISP was not liable for the downloading habits of its customers. Of course the studios appealed. They lost the appeal, and, sore losers that they are, appealed to the High Court – Australia’s highest judicial authority.

Today five High Court judges handed down a unanimous decision in favour of iiNet. They awarded costs (estimated at NINE MILLION DOLLARS) to iiNet.

The studios are now bleating that “the current Australian Copyright Act isn’t capable of protecting content once it hits the internet and peer-to-peer networks…” (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft managing director Neil Gane). What utter rubbish. The ISPs have long argued that content owners already have sufficient remedies through the courts and it is not the job of the ISP to decide whether someone is guilty of content piracy. Sensibly, the courts have agreed.

Kim Heitman, a Perth IP lawyer who is secretary of Electronic Frontiers Australia, said today’s court decision “means that the content owners need to decide if they are going to continue to try to keep hold of their 20th century business model or open an online shop.” Exactly. If the motion picture and music industries made their wares readily available for download at a reasonable cost piracy would be greatly reduced, possibly almost eliminated.

I don’t condone piracy but I do have some sympathy for those who download illegally. The film and music proprietors have no one but themselves to blame for the present high level of illegal downloads. Their head-in-the-sand attitude which sees everyone but themselves at fault needs to change. While they’re at it they can abolish their stupid DVD regions which add unnecessary cost to DVDs sold in Australia, and restrict what we can buy from overseas.

Full story at The Age.