ISPs seek legal advice on copyright issues

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ISPs seek legal advice on copyright issues

iiNet vs film industry case causes concern.

At least three Australian ISPs have sought legal advice on what would occur if they were placed in a similar court case to that faced by iiNet.

The film industry, represented by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), has accused iiNet of failing to prevent transmission of illegally-obtained content via its network.

Exetel chief John Linton said he had sought legal advice when it came to customers infringing the copyright of others.

"Exetel was sufficiently concerned," he wrote on his personal blog. "So we took expensive legal advice to understand the scenario."

He said he "felt safe" in following legal advice that suggested he was "protected completely from both legal action against Exetel and also protecting our customers from any 'false' allegations of copyright breach without it costing us one cent".

The advice appeared to be to immediately block the accused's service and pass on AFACT's "evidence" of a copyright breach to the user.

They could decide to either "deny/remedy the contents and get the service unblocked" or not acknowledge it and have their account cancelled after 21 days.

The issue of what constituted evidence of a copyright breach was a key test point in the iiNet case. iiNet has said in the past that AFACT's allegation should be proven in the courts before an ISP was required to take action and either block or cut off the accused's internet service.

Exetel was not alone in consulting lawyers over the issue.

"We've sought legal advice as to how we would respond if faced with a similar situation and we're watching the iiNet case with interest," said a spokesperson from AAPT.

Internode's managing director, Simon Hackett, also said that Internode had sought advice in relation to AFACT, but was not willing to divulge what it had suggested.

Netspace refused to comment specifically but said it didn't want the courts to put "unsustainable requirements on ISPs".

"In general, Netspace does not think that ISPs should be required to act as 'policemen', said Matthew Phillips, regulatory and carrier affairs manager for Netspace.

"An ISP should not be expected to monitor its customers' communications," he said.

Two of Australia's largest ISPs, Optus and Telstra, declined to comment.

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