A group of Hollywood film studios and Australian companies, including Warner Bros, Disney and 20th Century Fox, alleged that Australian Internet provider iiNet authorised the infringement of their copyright when its customers downloaded movies and television programmes.
In 2010, Australia’s Federal Court ruled iiNet did not authorise the downloads or have the power to stop them, thwarting the studios’ attempt to plug losses running into billions of dollars.
The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), made up of 34 film, television and music companies, appealed, claiming it set a dangerous precedent that allowed Internet companies to ignore copyright theft.
But Australia’s High Court held that the respondent, an Internet service provider (ISP), had not authorised the infringement by its customers of the appellants’ copyright in commercially released films and television programmes. It added that iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent file sharing system to infringe copyright, by downloading content to watch on their laptops and PCs.
AFACT managing director Neil Gane said the judgement exposed the failure of copyright law to keep pace with the online environment.