Illegal Movie Piracy, The Times They Are A-Changing?

It is estimated that due to movie piracy, the Australian economy loses $1,370 million dollars a year and that in the past 12 months 6,100 full time jobs were lost.

For years movie companies such as Roadshow films have attempted unsuccessfully to stop movie piracy. Historically, movie companies have aimed at stopping the distributers of pirated movies rather than the actual individuals downloading the movies. This exercise ultimately has failed because once one website or program is shut down another new one appears in its place. Recently, the movie companies have turned their attention to internet providers. The latest episode in the battle was the decision handed down on 25 February 2011 in the Roadshow Films Pty Ltd & Ors v iiNet Limited case. In this case, Roadshow supplied iiNet with weekly notices of those users who had been illegally downloading movies through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Roadshow demanded that iiNet send those users a notice threatening to suspend or even terminate their accounts if they continued to illegally download Roadshow’s movies. iiNet failed to take any action so Roadshow brought legal action against them alleging that by not taking any action the internet provider was authorizing the breaches of their copyright. Under copyright laws, someone who authorizes a breach is equally as liable as the actual person breaching copyright.

The Federal Court of Australia ultimately ruled in favour of iiNet. But while iiNet won the battle, Roadshow Films may still yet win the war as Justice Jabbot provided a blueprint for a situation in which internet providers could be held accountable for its users stealing movies. The Court decided that iiNet would have been held liable if the weekly notices had of contained more verified and specific content. Therefore in the future, if intellectual property owners such as movie companies provide detailed reports of those users illegally infringing on their products, the internet provider will be forced to issue notices or face being found guilty of authorizing the conduct. These notices may start off with warnings but may end with multiple offenders having their internet accounts terminated. Roadshow may still yet appeal the decision to the High Court of Australia. However given a blue print for success has been provided they may now have sufficient ammunition to continue their battle.

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