Thursday, August 11, 2011

The iiTrial and what it means for social media

Roadshow Films ("AFACT") v iiNet

As I type this, I'm sitting in the Sydney registry of the High Court of Australia, where AFACT have just been granted special leave to appeal to the High Court
in the matter of Roadshow Films & ors ("AFACT") v iiNet. This is a BIG case for Australian copyright law and basically turns on whether an Internet Service Provider (ISP) should be held accountable for the copyright breaches of its users. 

Currently ISP's are not responsible for their users' actions. One argument for this is that the company who provides the internet service should not be forced to prevent illegal activity from occurring on that service, in the same way that a road construction company is not forced to police their own highway, that's a job for the Police! 

Due to the anonymous nature of many of these downloads, however, AFACT have argued that the Australian courts must find SOMEONE liable for these wrongs, and that SOMEONE should be the ISPs.  

The actual date of the High Court hearing has yet to be listed, but one thing is for sure: if the Court finds in AFACT's favour, ISPs aren't the only ones who should be worried. Such a decision could extend the liability of copyright breach to social networking sites. It is not unfeasible to think that sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, Instagram (you get the picture) could be found similarly liable for the copyright breaches of their respective users. 

But for now, we're off to Canberra!

*I have included an asterisk because while some downloaders fundamentally disagree with the proposed illegality of their actions, the fact remains that such downloading is in breach of the Copyright Act, and is therefore (in Australia, at least), illegal.

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