A PERTH-based internet service provider has stared down the might of Hollywood and prevailed.
In a landmark decision the High Court on Friday ruled 20/4 iiNet could not be held responsible for its customers downloading and sharing copyrighted content online.
A group of 34 film and television companies, from Australia and the United States, had brought the action against iiNet, Australia's second largest ISP.
The High Court's unanimous decision ended three years of legal wrangling and upheld a Federal Court decision from last year. The Federal Court deemed iiNet had not authorised its customers to download and share copyrighted content online.
That decision was upheld on appeal to the Full Court of the Federal Court, leading to the High Court action. The companies appealed to the High Court on the grounds iiNet had the power to prevent its customers from infringing copyright by issuing warnings and or terminating customers' accounts.
It was also argued the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, which had originally served notices on iiNet alleging its customers had infringed copyright in the companies' films, should have been enough to "raise a reasonable suspicion that acts of infringement were continuing".
Once iiNet had received this information, it was argued, its failure to take action amounted to authorisation of its customers' infringements.
The High Court disagreed.
"The court observed that iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system (a file-sharing system) to infringe copyright in the appellants' films," the High Court said in a summary posted online on Friday.
The court also found the AFACT notices "did not provide iiNet with a reasonable basis for sending warning notices to individual customers".
iiNet chief executive Michael Malone greeted the news with two words on Twitter.
"Appeal dismissed," he tweeted.
Later in the day Mr Malone released a statement, urging the film and music industries to work closely with ISPs to stamp out online piracy.
"Increasing the availability of licensed digital content is the best, most practical approach to meet consumer demand and protect copyright," Mr Malone said.
"We have consistently said we are eager to work with the studios to make their very desirable material legitimately available to a waiting customer base - and that offer remains the same today."
Shares in iiNet were up 2.31% in trading on Friday.
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