Economy

iiNet court loss could hurt business

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The internet connections of some businesses, particularly home-based businesses, may be at risk – especially if internet service provider iiNet loses a legal battle against some of the entertainment industry’s biggest players, experts warn.

The internet connections of some businesses, particularly home-based businesses, may be at risk – especially if internet service provider iiNet loses a legal battle against some of the entertainment industry’s biggest players, experts warn.

iiNet has been sued by a group of 34 companies, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). The group, which includes entertainment giants such as Village Roadshow and Disney, says iiNet has ignored consistent warnings about its users illegally downloading films and television shows.

But legal experts warn a loss for iiNet will set a precedent for ISPs taking their own actions against individuals downloading illegal material. This may include warning letters and the termination of internet accounts.

Kimberlee Weatherall, associate director of the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia and University of Queensland senior law lecturer, says businesses may very well be affected.

“Think about the possible implications. If ISPs get involved and investigate claims, it’s possible that will make internet service more expensive.

“But it all gets a bit tricky once you think of a group of people using the internet line for the same purposes. If you’ve got a person running a business from home, and has a kid downloading television shows and movies, they may get a warning letter and perhaps even eventual termination,” she says.

“It could be a home business, small businesses, or so on. There’s all sorts of scenarios you can imagine where they might be issues”

Nicolas Suzor, acting chair for Electronics Frontiers Australia, says if iiNet loses, it may “potentially increase liability for businesses that make internet available to their employees”.

Suzor also says action taken by ISPs would be legally ambiguous, as there would be no independent body investigating copyright infringements.

“There’s no guarantee or oversights like what you’d get through the court system. This doesn’t go before an independent judge or jury. It’s potentially quite a wide problem,” he says.

“If a household or business is accused of downloading some copyright such as songs or movies, everyone loses access.”

But AFACT’s executive director, Adrianne Pecotic, says the legal battle is justified as iiNet allegedly ignored repeat notices of identified illegal activity undertaken by its customers.

“iiNet refused to address this illegal behaviour and did nothing to prevent the continuation of the infringements by the same customers. iiNet has an obligation under the law to take steps to prevent further known copyright infringement via its network,” she says in a statement.

Legal proceedings will continue in the Federal Court on 17 December.

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