The Australian High Court ruled on Friday that internet service providers do not need to act on the copyright infringement notices they receive from rights holders, according to a report by Ars Technica.
The decision ends an almost three year court battle between Australian ISP iiNet and 34 entertainment companies, including Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and Disney. The entertainment firms, and copyright holders, sued iiNet in 2008, claiming that iiNet failed to prevent peer-to-peer file sharing through BitTorrent. The court ruled this week that iiNet “had not authorized the infringement by its customers of the appellants’ copyright in commercially released films and television programs.”
The ruling comes as Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom awaits his hearing, scheduled for August, in the copyright infringement suit. When Megaupload was pulled offline in January, the FBI seized 18 domains, and approximately $50 million in assets. The case is expected to be the largest US copyright infringement lawsuit ever.
According to a report by PCWorld, the entertainment industry wanted iiNet to send customers a warning to delete infringing content on BitTorrent, and if they failed to do so within a week, their Internet connection would be cut off. iiNet refused to comply with these requests, and says while it does not condone copyright infringement, it does not accept that threatening or disconnecting customers is the solution to infringements.
Australia has a “safe harbor” provision like the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act, under which service providers are not liable for copyright infringement if the material has been made available by another party other than the service provider, for example.
The ruling may be applicable to web hosting providers as well, since like ISPs, web hosts can’t necessarily control what customers use their services for. Also, it is nearly impossible to police hosting customers and ensure they aren’t using a hosting service to infringe copyrights.
In its statement, the court ruled that iiNet had “no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright” and the extent of its power to prevent customers from infringing was “limited to an indirect power to terminate its contractual relationship with its customers.”
The court also observed that the information contained in the notices given to iiNet from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft did not provide iiNet with a reasonable basis to send warning notices to customers.
Talk back: Are you a hosting provider or ISP based in Australia? What is your take on the High Court’s ruling against the entertainment industry? Let us know in a comment.