iiNet vs the Movie Studios

As technology propels us deeper into the digital age, giving us access to seemingly unlimited content from all over the world, the law is struggling to keep up. In an attempt to drag the law into new territory, Village Roadshow, Warner Brothers, Disney and a number of other film and TV studios, launched an attack on Internet company iiNet for allowing its customers to illegally download movies via the BitTorrent system.

The High Court found that pinning liability on iiNet was outside the scope of Copyright law, as iiNet lacked the technical ability to compel or prevent copyright infringement by its customers.

iiNet had no involvement with any part of the BitTorrent system. They did not host the infringing material or the websites making the files relating to infringing material and did not assist its customers to locate BitTorrent clients. They could not monitor the steps taken by the users of its internet services and could not directly prevent those users from downloading BitTorrent clients and using these for purposes in breach of law.

Essentially, the court took the view that the only way iiNet could control the activity of its customers on the internet would be by terminating their contracts and that this would be made redundant because it would not prevent them from engaging in illegal conduct on another ISP.

The Court did make several points that acknowledged the ambiguous state of the law and indicated the need for legislative reform as the Copyright Act lacked the scope to deal with the challenges presented by technology.

The question of whether BitTorrent users themselves can use the BitTorrent system without violating copyright law has not yet been considered.

Contact Bayston Group if you have any questions relating to Copyright Law or Intellectual Property rights generally.