Australian High Court on ISP liability for copyright infringed

On Friday, the High Court of Australia dismissed an appeal by content companies in Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited[2012] HCA 16 (summary) on the basis that under the Australian Copyright Act the ISP was not to be held liable as having authorised infringements by its customers using BitTorrent.

The media companies had argued that provisions of the Copyright Act providing that authorizing acts of infringement were an infringement of copyright applied to ISPs. The Court found that the ISP in this case had limited power as defined in its contract with its customers. The copyright infringement notices provided to the ISP did not provide a reasonable basis for the ISP to terminate it service contracts with its customers.

Regarding the infringement notices served on iiNet, the Court held:

[76] iiNet’s inactivity after receipt of the AFACT [Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft] notices was described by the appellants as demonstrating a sufficient degree of indifference to their rights to give rise to authorisation. However, the evidence showed that the inactivity was not the indifference of a company unconcerned with infringements of the appellants’ rights. Rather, the true inference to be drawn is that iiNet was unwilling to act because of its assessment of the risks of taking steps based only on the information in the AFACT notices.

Matt Adams of AJ Park has a further analysis of the decision on his blog, PatentBuff.