Australians agree you are at fault for illegally downloading movies

A recent poll by Compare Broadband showed the Australian legal system got it right when it recently vindicated internet service provider iiNet after it was accused of failing to stop its users from illegally downloading movies over its broadband network.

When visitors to the Compare Broadband website were asked, ‘Are internet providers responsible when their individual customers illegally download movies?’ a resounding 87% of the 385 voters said, ‘No, it’s the customer’s responsibility.’ Only 7% of people in the poll thought it was the internet service provider’s responsibility, while 6% said they didn’t know either way.

A coalition of film and television studios including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Disney and the Seven Network started a NSW Federal Court battle with iiNet back in November, 2008. The media companies accused the ISP of infringing copyright by not enforcing in its contractual terms and conditions rules to stop users from illegally downloading movies and TV shows over its broadband network.

On February 4, 2010 the initial court case ended with iiNet being vindicated after proving they didn’t actively authorise copyright infringement practices made by its customers. The judge presiding over the case, Justice Cowdroy, formally stated, ‘The mere provision of access to the internet is not an authorisation of infringement.’

Managing Director of Compare Broadband, Scott Kennedy, said about the case, ‘It’s encouraging to see that Justice Cowdroy, a representative of the people, reached the same conclusion as 87% of Compare Broadband voters – albeit with much greater detail about the circumstances of the situation in hand. Common sense has prevailed and Australian ISPs can breathe a sigh of relief, at least until the retrial.’

Cowdroy went on to explain it was not the ISP’s fault, as the medium for stealing movies and TV shows was actually the BitTorrent file-sharing system, stating ‘iiNet has no control over BitTorrent.’ The case’s verdict relies on the idea all iiNet has done is simply provide a broadband internet service to its customers.

This result was quite different from a previous court case involving the Kazaa organisation, because that company encouraged its users to rebel against copyright laws. Another major factor in the decision was proof that copyright infringement was a common practice globally, as it occurs on networks everywhere and on a multitude of ISP’s services.

Justice Cowdroy’s findings also showed ISP customers only use BitTorrent to download single copies of illegal material, as opposed to multiple copies with the intention to sell, as is a common practice in China and other countries. He also made the point the BitTorrent service can be used for legitimate purposes.
The court ruling ordered the coalition of movie and TV studios to pay for iiNet’s legal fees. However, an appeal has been filed with the NSW Federal Court, with the case coming back to trial in August 2010.