The Federal Court of Australia today rejected an appeal by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) in its claim that Perth-based Internet service provider iiNet had committed copyright violations.
Music companies have been following events closely, hoping for a precedent-setting judgment in favor of rights-holders. But it wasn't to be, as the full bench of the Federal Court dismissed the appeal in a 2-1 majority decision.
AFACT, representing the country's movie and TV industry, originally launched its case in November 2008 after, t claimed iiNet ignored repeated notices to act on illegal copyrighted file transfers. It cited 94,000 such instances in court documents.
However, Sydney's Federal Court last February ruled that iiNet should bear no liability for third parties' copyright-infringement, as Justice Dennis Cowdroy remarked at the time, "iiNet has done no more than to provide an Internet service to its users." AFACT subsequently appealed the decision, but the result now stands the same.
AFACT's legal battle had been seen as a test case for a "graduated response" system Down Under. The Australian government's broadband and communications minister Stephen Conroy had earlier stated that a pro-AFACT judgment "may show to the world ISPs have got the responsibility to work with copyright owners to work out a solution."
The record industry is seeking legislative support from the government in its fight against copyright infringement, though the latest setback won't help its cause.
Labels trade association ARIA recently reported a 13.9% decline in the value of the country's record business in 2010, blaming piracy for a plunge in CD sales.
Following today's ruling, iiNet CEO Michael Malone reiterated his earlier calls for a commercial solution between content owners and the broadcast networks.
"Today's judgment again demonstrates that the allegations against us have been proven to be unfounded," Malone remarked. "We urge the Australian film industry to address the growing demand for studio content to be delivered in a timely and cost effective manner to consumers," he added, "and we remain eager to work with them to make this material available legitimately."
Following today's decision, AFACT executive director Neil Gane told reporters "it cannot be right" that the ISP takes no responsibility for copyright infringements on its network. The trade body has 28 days to decide whether to lodge an appeal with the High Court.