Torrents and illegal file sharing are a huge concern for the entertainment industry. The way they see it, millions of dollars of revenue each year disappears into the ether through copying and sharing of music and film on the internet.
Entertainment is big dollars and the film industry (via AFACT, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) recently put one of Australia's largest ISPs, iiNet, to the challenge in the Federal Court of Australia for knowingly permitting breach of copyright.
The arguement was this:
iiNet had been warned by the movie studios, repeatedly, that its customers were illegally downloading film. Due to changes in Australian copyright regulations back in 2005, copyright owners can notify service providers of infringing material. Whether displayed on a website, or transmitted through an internet service.
iiNet received the notices, but did not warn those customers that their behaviour was illegal and did not stop providing those customers with an internet service. In the opinion on the movie studios, that was the least iiNet could do.
The problem for iiNet was that the movie studios effectively wanted to dictate who it could have as customers, and iiNet needs customers to run its business.
In February 2010 the Federal Court decision found that iiNet provided a legitimate communication facility. That communication facility was not intended or designed for the purpose of infringing copyright and iiNet had limited control over what its customers did with the facility.
The decision was appealed and the appeal was dismissed. The movie studios are now required to pay costs.
What do you need to know?
When you are online you are using the services of an ISP. To use those services, you enter into an agreement with the ISP. Now, most people don't ever read the terms and conditions of the agreements they enter into. They simply scroll to the bottom and tick "I agree".
If you did read terms and conditions, you would find that most companies include a term specifying that you agree not use their service for illegal acts, commit an offence or infringe another person's rights (Person also meaning company in this context).
Illegally downloading films and music is an infringment of copyright. Those actions could amount to a breach of agreement with the service provider. If you are in breach, the service provider can suspend or terminate your agreement. If cases like the iiNet case succeed, then ISP will be required to impose more active monitoring and your service continuation will be at risk.
So, do some risk management.
- Make sure the system you use to maintain your business is not being used for illegal file sharing or downloading. Employment or workplaces policies can cover this provided that your staff know what they are and what they mean.
- Make sure your website is not hosted by your ISP.
- Make sure the material you display on your website is displayed with permission and does not infringe the rights of others.
- Consider whether or not you have metadata, keywords or other imbedded material that could infringe the rights of others.
In all cases, make a commercial assessment of the risk and the benefits accruing to you from compliance and impliment from there.