Excellent news: iiNet has just won the first round of its battle with the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) over AFACT's claims that iiNet authorised illegal file sharing by failing to prevent it.


It was an utterly ridiculous argument - one which some have likened to blaming the postman for delivering photocopied sheet music or, to pick a rather more ironic example, having gone to HMV and legitimately purchased a copy of Men at Work's "Land Down Under" which has itself just been ruled as infringing copyright. Oops - you've been retrospectively made guilty of obtaining a work that's illegally derivative of another (copyrighted) work - and HMV should be held liable, right?

Effectively, what the AFACT was attempting to do was to have ISPs police their users to prevent them from doing anything illegal. In reality, it would simply provide the recording and music industry lawyers with larger, easier-to-sue targets by making the ISPs liable rather than the people who broke the law. In practice, what this would mean is that ISPs - which have neither the time, resources nor mandate to try and convict people for copyright infringement - would simply end up suspending or terminating accounts of anyone even accused of copyright infringement.

I'm not arguing that copyright infringement is a good thing. That's for another discussion about the value that copyright law provides to society (which definitely needs to be argued given some of the ridiculous cases we're seeing). I am arguing that if someone wants to claim copyright infringement then the onus should be fairly and squarely on the copyright holder to prove it in court.

Seem too far-fetched for you that someone would get kicked off the internet based on accusations, not proof? You must have had your head buried in the sand - there's a supposedly secret treaty being negotiated right now that will ensure precisely that, and its provisions (three unsupported accusations, not three convictions) have already been enshrined in legislation in several countries.

Hats off to iiNet for taking a stand - and shame on AFACT for trying it on in the first place.

For once, this is a sensible (and correct) ruling on copyright infringement liability. Let's hope that the appeal process doesn't cock it up.