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. If stations like 7 actually bothered to put any effort into screening series properly, more people would watch them on TV. But viewers have been d****d around sooo much in the past few years with shows being heavily promoted, screened once or twice or six times, then taken off, or moved to late late time slots. And those fake season finals are just insulting.

    TV stations have fallen behind just like the music industry did 10 years ago, and then they bring out the lawyers. Same old bull***t. Sue your customers. Great idea…

    Streaming TV shows isn’t going to work in this country until we get download caps higher than we currently get here. We get 12 or 24 GB; in the U.S. and elsewhere it’s 250 GB – for less dollars per month, go figure.

  2. When I think about it, there’s silver lining to this: The same thing happened in the US a few years back, where there was a spate of lawsuits over illegal downloading. But once that furor subsided, the FTA networks were basically forced to put up most of their primetime shows streaming for free (plus ads) on the net. It may be bad for the next little while, but maybe this will bring around that paradigm shift in FTA networks attitudes towards the net that we’ve all been waiting for?

  3. I only download shows that have been killed by the FTA networks such as

    When my favourite programs are shown respect, I will happily return to TV viewing, and same my $$ on the bandwidth.

  4. Remember that it was Seven that said a year or two ago that people downloading their shows was “a lovely problem to have” 🙂

    AFACT also stated clearly in an article in The Age that they have no interest in pursuing TV show downloaders.

  5. iView is mediocre. We’re still years behind. I’d be in love if Hulu was made available to Australians.

    Personally, the way I get around it, and still stay okay legally (for the most part), is by using the US iTunes store. I’ve probably spent hundreds on it (buy the gift certificate through eBay), and don’t have to feel guilty when watching downloads. Luckily, as I’m on iiNet, downloads from the store are off-quota (I thought it was only for the Aussie store, but I’m sure not complaining. Saved me 30 gig of downloads last month).

  6. Except the (free to air) TV networks were already stuffing around TV programs, long before downloading via bitorrent or kazza was widely available (2001?). Science Fiction shows would be a perfect example.

    I really think the (free to air) TV networks would be shocked, if they really knew how many people have turned off the TV. But they use small samples for TV ratings in each area, while continuing to claim ‘x’ amount of people actually watched their TV shows.

  7. Going after a internet provider! The TV and Movie Houses are nuts. If you think court action wil work, you are sadly mistaken. I will not stop what I do, because there is no quality TV service out there. And if they do win, well everybody will go elsewhere, and iinet will lose customers, which in the end, isn’t that what the court case about to being with – the loss of viewers from tv? Then iinet should sue them for loss of business!

    Either way, the TV and Movie Houses arn’t making any friends here!

  8. iinet’s response sounds reasonable to me, not that common sense or reason necessarily gets you anywhere in court cases.

    I’m sure they know some users are breaching copyright but you need to prove it before you can disconnect someone, and proving or prosecuting it isn’t their job, nor should it be. They’ve covered themselves with their agreement, it seems to me. Yes there are filters and the like but how do these work? Are they foolproof? Can they tell the difference between legal and illegal? I bet they’re clunky and buggy and do more harm than good.

  9. Good luck iiNet. As has been said, the networks and content providers need move into 2008. Broadband is here. The shows are out there, they are simply not being televised by the networks. Take The Daily Show and Colbert report. Both extremely popular. Both making tonnes of money. Both available free Worldwide…

  10. itsross agree totally. If the comercials started their own I-View then it will solve a large part of the problem.
    Or do what thedailyshow.com does and have the full episodes available for streaming (not downloading) and have ad’s throughout just as though it was on TV.

    The network still gets revenue, we get to watch the show and it’s all 100% legal. If they don’t want to show it during primetime then it’s the best way to do it.

    Sure there’s copyright issues with O/S networks to get over but hey, if Dr Who can be shown on i-View then I don’t see a major problem….

  11. I’m confused about why ch7 is even involved with this. (Unless it’s just arrogance, which wouldn’t surprise me). Surely the number of people downloading content owned by ch7 is minimal? Unless they’re going to include Lost, Heroes etc because ch 7 has broadcast rights in Oz… hmm

    7 would be better off investing the millions they’ll spend on legal fees in making their product more attractive to viewers and in learning how to harness the internet better. Users are way ahead of the big media dinosaurs (who still seem to be operating on a model that worked in the 80’s) in this regard. If we had to wait for them to embrace technology we’d be waiting forever. I don’t download much, just occasional things that are hard to get here but I’m actually glad others do because it forces the networks to get off their backsides, be less complacent and move forward.

    As for iinet…. their service wouldn’t be viable commercially if it was overly constrained. You can’t expect them to sabotage their own business by kicking off people for using torrent sites. Those people won’t stop downloading, they’ll simply give their money to another ISP. I’d also like to know what the response of Bigpond was. Oh wait, Bigpond has deals with some of those companies listed. Better not sue them.

    It won’t work anyway, just as the Kazaa case didn’t scare people away from music downloading. In fact, it will just piss most people off.

  12. @ Seriously

    There are many legal ways to use torrent software, such as freeware, peer created content etc. Using torrent software in itself is not illegal, but downloading copyrighted material is.

  13. How exactly do you measure this so-called “revenue loss” from this kind of “piracy”?

    How can an ISP be responsible for something that doesn’t tangibly affect their bottom line?

    Why haven’t they learned yet that the fundamental way to solve this issue is not to send innocent parties to court, but to provide entertainment in a timely manner and without all the interruptions, immediate cancellation, changing of start times, and general all round buggering about, which is sending their audience to other outlets?

    And what of the fact that many of these so-called “pirates” subsequently buy DVDs, giving production companies actual real money, which is arguably better than intangible and unmeasurable advertising dollars anyway. Personally I think this is the kind of revenue stream they ought to concentrate more on, and shift away from the advertising model.

  14. Sorry, but there’s just one thing i don’t understand.

    They all say that downloading music/movies/TV shows is illegal. Then how come they don’t shut down those programs that allow this. I’m sure if you go to Google and type ‘free movie/music downloads’, there would be a lot of results. This includes lime wire… etc

    If its such an offense – then how come they haven’t shut down all those programs? It just doesn’t make sense.

  15. If the networks played shows out without taking them off air after 1 week or if the film industry were to release movies simultaneously to cinemas around the world, the number of people obtaining them illegally would drop dramatically

  16. As much as I’m against piracy, the TV networks really only have themselves to blame for the ever increasing amount of people looking into other methods. Most TV series seem to be stuffed around by the (free to air) TV networks at some point, and late changes to TV Guides are becoming far too common.

    Kids programs (especially cartoons) often get the worse treatment by (free to air) TV networks, so it is any wonder that kids look to other methods early on?

    In particular I’m tired of Nine letting the rights to TV series (ie many Warner Brother’s cartoon series, Taken) simply expire, before all episodes are shown, or before they are shown at all.

  17. Hey channel Seven! Build your own version of ABC’s iView and I’ll quit the torrents tomorrow. And not some lame half arsed attempt, build a quality service where I watch most if not all of your programs for Free. Place some ads in there if you must, but just get with the times.

  18. Please make all these episodes of US and UK shows we want to watch available for us to “pay to download” from the overseas network websites at a minimal fee and we will happily do so … otherwise, make them freely available for us to see free-to-air without abuse of time slot and continual interruptions of screening flow through a complete season …

    If an Aus Network decides to buy a show … they should be forced to show it at a reasonable time and for the entire season’s run … or not be allowed to buy it at all … giving it to another who will … (which stupidly means that they will all end up on Foxtel …damn!) .. of course, that will never happen!

    A recent episode of Smallville … which supposedly does not rate here .. reportedly had 15000+ people downloading it at 1 time!!! And a recent episode of Desperate Housewives had over 35000 downloaders at 1 time … that is a lot of people to prosecute … so going for the ISP is an easy way … I have heard that Warner Bros are particularly nasty about downloads and logging on to torrent sites as a fake file sharer to find them …


  19. Benno, I would suggest that this is driven more by studios as it states above… “Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Disney” Seven was the only network mentioned.

    The Networks are probably going to jump on board more to back the studios and share the cost as it then in-turn protects their long term deals/relationships.

    Aussie Networks generally put episodes online for free if they aquire the rights to do so…ie. Aussie shows, or in the case of Supernatural… so use of BitTorrent isn’t as big an issue unless the content is well out of date and international.

  20. I have to wonder how they can stop it?

    Years after Napster was closed it’s still happening more than ever. They only way to stop it is to provide a decent low cost downloading service and for networks and studios to has TV and movies shown with little delay in this country.

  21. Oh dear, they obviously have no idea just how large the number of people torrenting tv shows is in this country. They are the ones forcing people to bypass them, they are the ones who can immediately change their deceitful ways to regain credibility. They are shooting themselves in the foot with late starts, fake season finales, shows weeks or months out of date, chopping and changing shows, the list goes on. These are driving people to tv piracy who would otherwise generally oppose piracy, myself included. Don’t treat the symptom, treat the cause. They will lose, I can guarantee that.

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