Finally, some good news in the war against oppressive copyright prosecution:
INTERNET service provider iiNet has won a major legal battle over whether it should be held responsible for its customers downloading content illegally.
The case, against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, could have had major implications for the way internet providers police their users.
If AFACT had won, providers would likely have been forced to penalise or disconnect users who illegally downloaded copyrighted material such as movies and songs.
However Federal Court judge Justice Dennis Cowdroy today found iiNet was not responsible for the infringements of its users.
I know! Common sense in a major copyright case! I’m as surprised as you are.
It’s always a miracle when the massively over-funded and corrupt corporate interest side (the side with vast reserves of money and tame politicians) is beaten by the public interest side (the side with no funding, save when its interests temporarily align with a different set of corporate interests) – but when it’s on so critical an issue as to whether the content monopolists can turn ISPs into their own policemen; whether the existing laws can be further bent to push their ludicrous “rights” ahead of everything else – well, it’s a fine thing to see.
Particularly in a world in which other governments are busy locking the internet down and turning it over to American industry – France, Britain, the EU all extending corporate power to arbitrarily determining without any kind of due process who loses access to the internet, and we’re busy negotiating in secret to hand even more power to them via “ACTA”. US courts have handed out obscenely punitive judgments against ordinary people on behalf of the big corporations, well in excess of any harm or damage they’ve ever caused (even when reduced, they’re still ridiculous – $US54,000 for 24 songs – worth 99c each – is insane).
Any movement against that destructive tide is worth cheering.
Of course, they’ll appeal, and if they lose that, they’ll lobby the major parties until they pass legislation to give them the super rights the courts have thus far denied them (Conroy’s already indicated he’s in their pocket) – the momentum on such issues is always in favour of the side with the most money, and AFACT’s repulsive corporate sponsors definitely have far more of that than civil liberties foundations (or even ISPs) – but it’s a positive step for once.
In this area, I’ll take what good news we can get.
AND NOTE: For all those shameless liars who like to call copyright infringement “theft”, the Court made it very clear what it thought of that:
171. As an aside, the Court notes that AFACT, the organisation which the applicants use to aid in enforcement of their copyright, itself blurs the distinction between tortuous copyright infringement and criminal acts involving copyright, as seen in its name: Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft [emphasis added].
We see what you’re doing there.
Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft executive director, Neil Gane, said he was disappointed by the Court’s decision. “Today’s decision is a setback for the 50,000 Australians employed in the film industry, who work hard to send money to America as fast as possible. But we believe there’s something not quoite roight about this ruling — it was based on a mere technical loophole centred on the court’s interpretation of what the law technically says in actual words and original intention, rather than what it should say. That the judge told us several separate ways in which our case failed utterly to make any sense at all is clear evidence of radical judicial activism and dangerous legislating from the bench.
“We are confident that the government does not intend a policy outcome where zombie hordes of drooling open source copyright terrorists led by the evil genius Michael Malone are allowed to continue feasting upon the flesh of the living via the iiNet network.
“We will now take the time to review the decision before seeing if we can bribe enough federal politicians to get a law more to our liking.”
It’s funny because it’s true.
ANOTHER OUTRAGE: In related news, did you know that the government is funding offline book “lending” facilities that cost U.S. Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion”?
A DAY LATER: The New Lawyer looks at what’s likely to happen next.