Australian ISPs may be forced to disconnect cheats in new ruling

Australians now face the possibility of having their ISP disconnect or suspend them from the internet if they pirate films or music online, reports The Age.

And with The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) claiming two weeks ago, that one in every three Australians has committed movie theft, and that it lost $1.37 billion in a 12-month period to piracy as a whole, many will probably be targeted.

Although the Federal Court last week dismissed an appeal case brought against ISP iiNet by major film studios, sources say the judgment paves the way for copyright holders to improve the copyright infringement notices they send to ISPs and therefore force them to do something about the unauthorized downloads.

The film studios, represented by AFACT claimed that the ISP had "authorized" their users to commit copyright infringement by doing nothing about it, but in a 2:1 judgment by the Federal Court they found iiNet not liable for its users, but reserved judgment for the possibility that, in different circumstances, an ISP may be held liable for authorization of their users' infringements, according to law firm Freehills.

Litigation lawyer and specialist in intellectual property and technology law at Clayton Utz, John Fairbairn, said that although last Thursday's judgment ruled in favor of iiNet, the film industry was given a very clear way going forward to stop Australians from downloading movies and music illegally via their ISP.

"As it stands, [the judgment] opens the way for copyright owners ... to improve the quality of the notices they provide to ISPs and also potentially put in place a regime where they'll agree to meet [the ISP's] costs [to act on the notices]," Mr Fairbairn said. "And if they meet those requirements, an ISP may then come under an obligation to either send warning notices to those users [who download illegally] or to terminate the accounts of users that are repeat infringers."

In simple terms, this means an ISP such as Telstra, Optus or iiNet, among others, could be forced by copyright owners to warn their customers about copyright infringements alleged to have occurred using a customers' connection - and if the ISP continues to receive notices, terminate the customer's service.

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