There is a great deal of illegal downloading of copyright material via the internet worldwide.  It has been going on for years. The copyright owners are in a terrific flap about it. They call it “theft”.  There will be a great deal less of it, in Australia at least, if the copyright owners are successful in their appeal to the High Court in the case of Roadshow Films Pty Limited v iiNet Limited.

Films and other works the subject of copyright can be downloaded through unauthorised file sharing on the BIT Torrent system, the operation of which is pretty technical but the effect of which is that anyone with a computer and access to the internet can download and enjoy all manner of copyright protected works without paying a cent other than the subscription fee to the internet service provider.

Copyright owners are extremely unhappy about illegal downloading. This is understandable. Hollywood production houses pay millions of dollars for the rights to eg the latest Harry Potter and millions more to turn those rights into a film and bring it to the screen only to lose what countless 14 year olds would have paid to watch the movie at the cinema if they had not downloaded it illegally and watched it at home on their parents’ flat screen, possibly with surround sound, while eating popcorn and a packet of Jaffas.

In Roadshow Films, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft  argued that iiNet  was liable for the copyright infringement by its customers when they illegally downloaded films because iiNet had authorised the infringement.  The complicated fortress of copyright and related legislation prohibits authorising infringement. iiNet knew its services were being used for downloading and did nothing to stop it by terminating accounts that had been identified to it. iiNet  argued that it did not give express authority or invite its customers to do acts in breach of copyright. iiNet’s arguement has been successful so far but the case has gone on appeal from the full bench of the Federal Court to the High Court. Plainly, there is a lot of money at stake for the copyright owners.

If  the High Court makes internet service providers liable for illegal downloading, it will come to a crashing halt. If not, rumour has it that pirate hunters for the copyright owners can use the aptly named “bot crawler” to sneak through the back doors of illegal downloaders’ computers to catch them at it. Some may think it unacceptable to commit a crime to detect a crime. Watch this space because Helping You is Our Business.

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