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Seven joins court action to stop piracy

Channel Seven is one of several media companies to file action in the Federal Court against iiNet for "allowing internet piracy" amongst its customers.

Updated: iiNet responds (see below).

A major legal case by the the Australian film and television industry against iiNet is set to become a test case in the battle against downloaded movies and TV shows.

Channel Seven is one of several companies to file action in the Federal Court against one of the country’s biggest internet service providers, along with Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Disney.

Adrianne Pecotic, executive director of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), said the action followed a five-month investigation by the industry.

“We identified thousands of infringements of copyright by iiNet’s customers and we provided iiNet with about 18 separate notices of those infringements and, unfortunately, iiNet did not do anything to address that copyright infringement,” she told The Age.

Pecotic said she would not rule out further action against other internet providers. But she was not interested in targeting individual downloaders at this stage.

The companies are seeking a ruling that iiNet infringed copyright by failing to stop users from engaging in illegal file sharing over BitTorrent networks. They want an order forcing iiNet to prevent its customers from engaging in copyright infringement over its network.

Mark White, chief operating officer of iiNet, said he was unaware of the legal action when contacted today.

Internet providers have argued that the courts already provide adequate remedies for copyright holders and they should not be forced to police their users.

“This is a very important test case for the internet industry in Australia,” said Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association.

“It will test the effect of the safe harbour provisions that were introduced with the US free trade agreement, which provides immunity for ISPs in certain circumstances such as transmission, hosting, caching and referencing activities.”

The case will be back before the court on December 17

Source: The Age

Press Release (iiNet):

iiNet (ASX:IIN) will vigorously defend the Federal Court action filed today by a selection of film and television industry organisations alleging that iiNet has encouraged customers to download films illegally.

iiNet’s Managing Director Michael Malone said iiNet does not in any way support or encourage breaches of the law, including infringement of copyright.

“In reality, iiNet has been leading the industry in making content available legally through our Media Lounge, including agreements with iTunes, ABC iView, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Cruizin’, Macquarie Digital TV, NASA Television, Barclays Premier League football, Drift Racing 2007 and classic highlights of golf’s four Majors,” Mr Malone said.

Mr Malone said iiNet had not breached any laws and had repeatedly passed on copyright holders’ complaints to law enforcement agencies for investigation.

He said iiNet had advised the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) that their complaints had been forwarded to law enforcement agencies and that they should follow the matter up with them.

iiNet’s Customer Relations Agreement clearly spells out that customers must comply with the law and that our service must not be used “to commit an offence or to infringe another person’s rights”.

“iiNet cannot disconnect a customer’s phone line based on an allegation. The alleged offence needs to be pursued by the police and proven in the courts. iiNet would then be able to disconnect the service as it had been proven that the customer had breached our Customer Relations Agreement,” Mr Malone said.

49 Responses

  1. While I agree its a situation of what came first the chicken or the egg, I think the idea that networks would put newer material on TV if people stopped downloading is overlooking the fact that they are expecting miracles from a market that distrusts the practices of Australian TV networks. I mean how is that Channel 9 is continually allowed to practice late starts to most of their prime time shows. Many nights I find that Two & a half men not starting for between 5-15 minutes after its scheduled start. Shows being regularly yanked off after 1-2 episodes at ungodly times. The list goes on.

    Last year they tried the fast tracking format only to have the writers guild strike put any progress they made on hold. I think it was a mistake to scrap it because I know my interest in Prison Break went up as it fast tracked and then nothing. They even got at one point almost day to day with the US being the MLB playoffs were going on which delayed it in the US.

    My point is that highlighted the long, long delays viewers have in getting many shows. Its one thing when one or two shows are delayed but the amount is getting to breaking point. Scrubs is only half way through season 7 which is months after its us screening. Shown at irregular times, in the late night graveyard shift and given no publicity or chance to flourish. The situation for Monk is even worse. The fifth season has not even seen the light of day on Australian TV even on TV1. That is now halfway through the seventh season. Add to the list of unappreciated, American Dad, Family Guy, King of the Hill, Nip/Tuck, New Adventures of Old Christine, Law & Order and so on and so on.

  2. I work for Roadshow, and my home internet provider is iiNet. Talk about being torn in two directions in regards to loyalties! But no – it really is hard to say to what extent someone is responsible for something; in this case how responsible an internet provider is to what their customers do with the service. On the one hand; if iiNet was provided with notices or whatnot telling them that a lot of their customers were using their service to download stuff illegally, then they should do something about it. But also, shouldn’t it then be the responsibility of the government/law enforcement agencies to actually enforce this? I don’t personally download any TV shows, movies or music, simply for the fact that it takes too long, is bad/unknown quality, and I don’t really feel like getting into illegal activities to save a couple bucks (or whatever the reason is for downloading). But I can see why people do. If TV was programmed better, and not so late in arriving in Aus, and if movies didn’t get released so late or had such expensive ticket prices, I think a lot of the downloading would stop. As someone on the side of the studios pointed out to me today, sure, “watching a TV show or movie ‘right now’ is not a necessity of life. And if you are so upset with late/expensive/etc TV & movies then just don’t watch them, don’t then go off and download it”. But if people really took this sentiment to heart, who would be left to watch it all? But ultimately I don’t think suing iiNet was the answer. Surely the biggest ISP (ahem-Bigpond) would then have a bigger percentage?

  3. The bottom line in my view at least is whether ISP is required to monitor users activities. The internet use is getting totally out of hand for politicians and they would like to get back into control what people can and cannot do using internet. Kevin Rudd’s attempt to introduce filters is a perfect proof and it is usually suggested by people who have absolutely no clue what an impact this is going to have on a future use. These are the same politicians who are trying to guaranty us a NBN with at least 12MB/s of bandwidth. How many incompetent politicians we still need to elect? This piracy issue is no different. There is still probably the law that forbids us to tape TV shows on VCR (remember that?). It was devised in the 80s and never enforced. This will go the same way, unless they make internet completely unusable.

  4. Gary, downloading TV shows is not a “criminal act”. Believe it or not, it is not a crime.

    It is a civil offence.

    You’ll notice that nobody has ever been arrested for downloading TV shows. Nobody ever will be.

    That’s why I was somewhat amused by iiNet stating that they passed on complaints from rights holders on to the “State Police”. They very well might have, but the police would look at the complaint and toss it in the bin. It’s not their job.

  5. “haha. god they’re idiots. just like with napster, kazaa etc. they come in years too late. bittorrent is so 2004. most of us have moved on to faster and more reliable means of downloading shows/movies.

    the studios will never keep up.”

    I give it until 2010 before they “discover” me & everyone else are using rapidshare.

  6. Good point Pondie. I suspect what it hinges on is whether ISPs are responsible for what users do with their broadband access, whether the ISP is expected to monitor and take action against such. iiNet claims it passed the info on to authorities.

    There are lots of illegal activities conducted via the internet.

  7. The last TV show I downloaded via BT? : Heroes
    When? : a couple of weeks ago. Why? : Because 7 put it back an hour without hardly telling anybody, and the PVR missed it.

    The last movie I downloaded via BT? Day Watch
    When? : A year or so ago. Why? Because the local distributor held it back for several months, all the while advertising it as ‘coming soon’ at several local cinemas, before eventually releasing it for a 1-week run at a single cinema.

    That gives all the information media companies need to know in order to dramatically reduce piracy. Stop dicking everybody around, and most will stop downloading stuff.

    “… I think people ask too much of our networks.”
    I ask nothing except that they don’t f**k me around; basic decency, if you will. If they can’t even manage that – say, by starting shows within 5 minutes of the advertised time, or not cutting in an extra 2 or 3 ad breaks per hour – then I don’t see why I should show them any respect.

  8. The point in all of this isn’t whether downloading copyrighted material is morally wrong (it is illegal, the moral justification of this is irrelevant). Similarly, the need for networks and other organisations to modernise to reach new audiences is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether iinet ‘authorised’ the infringement of copyright that its users undertook. Firstly, I’d imagine, the networks need to prove in some way that iinet users have infringed copyright and then if that’s established, that iinet authorised this infringement. It’s a bit of a stretch but not impossible.

  9. Seven and Co. are bastards for suing iiNet. How can you sue the internet, or providers of the internet?? In the end, it is up to the individual to take responsibility for their own actions.

    I don’t download tv shows, on principle. Obviously, if we all downloaded our shows illegally and did not watch tv, then the studios would not bother to make these shows in the first place.

    Personally, I think the Oztam rating system needs to be taken into the 21st century. I am positive that Network TEN have a lot more viewers than what the ratings suggest. Their target audience is young, single, out and about, and I’m sure half of the tv they watch is recorded or downloaded.

  10. Heres the thing, sure TV networks may take us for a ride sometimes but Seven always intend to show the bulk of the US shows in February. If Seven and the other networks were to bring all the US shows here now when they start airing in America there would be no room for Packed To The Rafters, City Homicide, All Saints and others or the hit US shows would end up at 10:30pm or later. I am sorry but i think people ask too much of our networks. Seven seem to be the best network here is Australia because most of the shows they put on the air will always be played out and we always know that most of them are here early in 2009.

    Channels 9 and 10 on the other hand the same cant be said about them. Channel 9 pulls shows as quickly as they put them up, they also had promised to show shows like Pushing Daisies and Chuck in 2008 and we are yet to see them at all. This is why TV is being given a bad name in this country and its primarily channel 9’s fault. They are the ones who treat viewers the worst and its like a flow on effect.

    I am against all this downloading crap because it is wrong and they are committing a criminal act. Its in the laws. Sure i would like to see some of my favourite shows now but hey its impossible to do so.

  11. Tim, completely with you on that. I don’t download movies, because high-quality copies are on sale very quickly. And movies I’ve never had any complaint with when it comes to reasons for downloading.

    TV, however, that’s a no-brainer. As I’ve said for a while now, if they treat me with contempt, I show them the same level of contempt right back at them, and I’ve got the power to control what I watch too.

    Gil, the pursuit of individual downloaders (of music, mainly ) has become something of a sport for industry bodies in the USA. They sue, they ask for unpayable damages and imply massive court costs, then they offer a still-crippling “settlement” to let the accused off the hook. In the US it is both a PR exercise and grand larceny.

    One would hope that AFACT or any of the other local industry bodies never gets that cocky. Though I doubt they would, since they know all too well that they’d get their proverbials cut off quick-smart in Australia.

  12. It’s definately a new era for TV viewing, especially for US shows. When their was no internet people were really unaware of how far behind we were here with top rating US shows. Now with websites giving you up to the minute information and spoilers on shows it’s all changed. The Australian networks should have reinvented themselves a lot earlier and also pushed for a new way to provide ratings for TV shows. They also need to do away with this primative Oztam system which is only in a small percentage of households across Australia, just because it’s always been done that way, doesn’t mean that it is the best way. Surely their could be a device that is inserted into every TV that could be plugged into a line which would provide data on everybodies viewing habbits, also programs could be incripted to send the info on what show they are watching, whether it was recorded the night before or even a 10.30pm at night, which seems to be where a lot of the best U.S shows are ending up.

    Gone are the days where people just put up with what the networks are providing, we live in a age where we can choose for ourselves. I’m prepared to wait a week for a show that has already screened in the US, even a couple of weeks but I won’t wait for six months. Last night for example I sat and watched The Amazing Race but after it I put on my dowloaded copy of the lasted episode of Survivor Gabon. If the programmers can’t see this then they are in the wrong industry and need to go and start mowing lawns for a living because they aren’t doing their job at present. Oh and by the way, tonight I will be watching Hero’s from the other night, wouldn’t be included in the ratings but I’m still a viewer.

  13. AFACT don’t want to pursue individual downloaders as court costs would be massive – given the number of people that download. Legal experiences in the US have been very messy and bad publicity for all involved. Software like Limewire and Bit Torrents are not illegal, it’s what people on there to share that is. That’s why they can’t close down Limewire and co.

    TV execs have got to realise things have moved on – people don’t buy newspapers, dont watch the 6pm news and everyone wants programs when they want them. Put up a legal website and people will come!

  14. They should all be suing themselves, they drive people to acts of copyright. I for one do not download movies, if i don’t think its worth the $15 (or $10 on tightass tuesdays) i wait till DVD and rent it. TV shows are more problematic, if i miss an episode, the show isnt accessible, it runs overtime (i will abandon any show that runs overtime causing me to miss the start of another), starts/finishes at an obscene hour, they axe it (like with fringe), or fall behind the states on some shows i will do what it takes so i can be up to date when i go to the states and inevitably watch TV there.

    Suing, especially a frivolous suit like this one, is a desperate act, meaning they are out of ideas (with the only one they have tried being a half assed attempt at fast tracking).

    Instead they should be doing things like asking the downloaders, “What would it take to make you stop downloading ?”. Which makes me think they don’t want it to stop they just want to cash in. If i were the judge i would laugh at them, then kick them out the door with a big boot.

  15. haha. god they’re idiots. just like with napster, kazaa etc. they come in years too late. bittorrent is so 2004. most of us have moved on to faster and more reliable means of downloading shows/movies.

    the studios will never keep up.

  16. An RMIT funded report had this to say, which wasn’t what the govt wanted to hear:

    “Findings from recent NetAlert research into the use of filters in the broadband environment confirms that accessing the Internet through a content filter at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level leads to a significant reduction in network performance. The research shows that network performance was reduced by 18 per cent for the best performing filter and almost 78 per cent on the worst performing filter. The research also demonstrated variable filter performance across the different categories of restricted content. Even the most effective filter in terms of accuracy, only blocked 76 per cent of the selected list of potentially offensive URLs used in the testing. The research also demonstrated that the technical challenges for ISPs would be significant. …“

    There’s no way in hell customers will put up with filtering. We have enough problems with broadband in this country. And they shouldn’t have to when it is… a. inaccurate / b. reduces connection speeds

    C’mon 7, wake up! Knee jerk litigation is just going to bit you on the ass. Use the technology to your advantage, think outside the box, start listening to what people actually want, stop freaking out because you can’t control everything. There are plenty of ways to integrate the internet into your business model, there are new avenues to be exploited if you’re panicking about falling ad revenue. Urgh, this is such a dumb move.

  17. “Ticky your spot on and who would need a 25 or 60gig download allowance otherwise?? They’ll (the isps) will lose a ****load of $$$ if downloading is wiped out.”

    Yes and now there are some at 200Gb, that’s more than 6Gb per day or 18 350mb files, really who needs this limit for normal web surfing even if you spend hours each day gaming or on YouTube or Google Earth.

    ISP will loose money if they can’t sell these high plans plus it could push the price for lower plans up and they are already too high, especially for those of us on wireless because Rudd hasn’t got the country wired for ADSL yet.

  18. Ticky your spot on and who would need a 25 or 60gig download allowance otherwise?? They’ll (the isps) will lose a ****load of $$$ if downloading is wiped out.

    And fred, Seven are by far the worst offenders but there’s nothing much i watch anyway on that ch so boycotting is useless! If it were 9 or 10 that would be a huge problem.

  19. IMO with the number of free and pay channels now in this country there is no reason why shows can’t be aired within a reasonable time, maybe a week or so? House, Supernatural and a few other shows this season I’ve waited for to save my data limit bt as soon as they “rest” a show (aka Fringe) I know where to find it! Like others have said make them available in a common standard (350Mb avi for 45min drama) for a nominal change or free.

    BTW I’m with BigPond, I wonder if they will go after the countries biggest ISP?

  20. ISP’s will never block their customers from downloading illegal tv/movies/music.
    If they did, they would be seeing a lot of money disappear as all of us pirates pack up & ship off to another ISP.

  21. Here is an interesting quote i found on ABC:

    Mark Pesce: Unless the broadcast networks can legislate the internet out of existence, there’s no way they can stop this. What they can do is they can make the situation worse for themselves by trying to block it. Here’s the thing: Australian broadcasters have used their monopoly position to be able to force the audience to do what they wanted, all right? Well the audience has found some degree of freedom, and you know what? They like it. And the degree to which the broadcasters’ attempt to block that freedom, it will only make the audience angry. The audience is bigger and far more powerful than the broadcast networks are, and so if the broadcasters try to fetter this, or slow this down, what they’ll find is that the audience will be outwitting them at every turn. But if the broadcast networks are smart, they’ll find ways of seducing the audiences into a relationship with them, which is going to be a different relationship than the relationship they already have. They’ll be founded more on live broadcasting, probably more on interactive, the kinds of things they will be very good at in the future, rather than just trying to block them from enjoying their own experiences.

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