AFACT v iiNet - The bell sounds for round one

10.15 am. Court Room 18C. Federal Court of Australia, New South Wales Registry. October 6, 2009.

Mark it down. It may just be one of the most important dates in Australian ICT and copyright history.

It's the start of: Roadshow Films Pty Ltd ACN 100 746 870 amp; Ors v iiNet Ltd ACN 068 628 937

In other words, the civil action between a host of film Studios and a couple of TV stations - as represented by Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT ) - versus Internet Service Provider (ISP), iiNet.

Today AFACT will present its case in a proceeding that may take up to one and a half days. During that time it is expected legal representation for AFACT will run through a host of arguments, the essence being that iiNet did not do enough to stop its customers using peer to peer networks (BitTorrent) to share copyrighted files.

In its defence, which should take a similar amount of time to run through, iiNet will most likely vigorously hit back at the accusation and say it has not given any support to copyright infringement by its customers.

The case, being heard by Justice Cowdroy will run for two weeks on, two weeks break and then two weeks on again. Mid-November we may just have a new precedent for the interplay between ISPs, Internet use by individuals/organisations and copyright protection that has ramifications across the globe.

We also may have more clarity on the issue of what an ISP has to do in order to qualify for safe harbour protection (as described in the Copyright Act) - which basically is the provision for exempting it from liability when copyright infringement occurs on its service.

And those aiming to stop the rampant infringement of their copyright, not just the big film studios and broadcasters but also small time artists and digital creators, may know whether this approach is one legitimate means to achieving their goals.

As a civil case AFACT is seeking either damages (money) or for a court order to make or stop iiNet from doing something. It's unlikely, though, that the argument will be over in the public sphere.

The court documents and a list of those participating in the case can be found here.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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