Australian piracy case likely to limit web access

The case hinges on more than 94,000 alleged infringements on the iiNet network over 59 weeks from June 2008. (AFP)

Australian internet rights groups fear a piracy court case could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to become "copyright cops" and cut web access to customers who make illegal downloads.

The Federal Court is on Thursday expected to hand down its judgement in the case, which has pitted Hollywood and Australian film and television producers against Australia's third-largest Internet provider iiNet.

The entertainment companies, which include Village Roadshow, Paramount Pictures Australia and Twentieth Century Fox International, say iiNet has not done enough to stop its customers illegally sharing movies on the net.

But iiNet argues it has never encouraged or authorised the illegal sharing or downloading of files in breach of copyright laws and specifically warned its users against doing so.

Electronic Frontiers Australia, which aims to protect the civil liberties of internet users, said the case goes further than any other similar case seen around the world in holding an ISP responsible for a customer's illegal activities.

"It doesn't seem to be a paradigm that we are used to seeing in the rest of offline life," said its spokesman.

"We've never seen a company which supplies electricity held responsible for supplying electricity to a house which grows illicit drugs, for example."

The case hinges on more than 94,000 alleged infringements on the iiNet network over 59 weeks from June 2008, involving titles such as Batman Begins and Dark Knight. The consortium of 34 Australian and US media content providers sent iiNet notifications of the infringements.

 

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