The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) has commenced appeal proceedings against a February court decision that found Australian ISP iiNet not guilty of infringing copyright laws.

In 2008, a group of 34 TV/film studios and broadcasters, including the Australian companies of Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment, launched a joint lawsuit against iiNet claiming the ISP had knowingly allowed its users to distribute illegally copied film files.

Their landmark legal action failed, however, with Justice Dennis Cowdroy ruling that the Perth-based ISP should bear no liability for third parties' copyright-infringement.

"iiNet has done no more than to provide an Internet service to its users," Cowdroy declared at the Feb. 4 ruling (Billboard.biz, Feb. 4).

AFACT, representing the country's movie and TV industries, disputes that view and today (Aug. 2) launched its Federal Court appeal by arguing that iiNet was fully aware of copyright violations committed on its network and the service provider failed to prevent them.

The legal team for AFACT today told the court that iiNet was regularly presented with details of customers' copyright infringements for 59 weeks.

"There is no doubt there were infringements drawn to [iiNet's] attention," AFACT's barrister David Catterns told the Sydney court.

"That is a clear notification of a large number of policy infringements over a period of 59 weeks. It is clear that iiNet knew, but would not act. They had complete power to prevent this in a practical sense."

iiNET and its CEO Michael Malone have said they are confident the court will again side in the ISP's favor.

In a statement in April, the ISP said: "AFACT is now seeking to force an unworkable political solution rather than work with the Internet industry to develop a practical and commercial outcome that protects and benefits copyright holders."

Australia's labels body ARIA is closely watching the action and used the commencement of the appeal to reiterate its preference for a "code of conduct" for ISPs.

"It is imperative that the music industry and ISPs work together to implement appropriate measures to sanction persistent and repeat illegal file-sharers on ISP networks," noted ARIA CEO Stephen Peach in a statement.

He continued: "we certainly hope that the appeal in the iiNet case will confirm that ISPs have an obligation to act in respect of illegal activity on their networks which is brought to their attention. However, clarifying that liability position is merely the first step in developing workable partnerships which will be for the benefit of ISPs, creators and consumers alike."

The AFACT appeal proceedings are expected to last four days.

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