Court Gets A Torrent-full About Linux

BitTorrent is one of the most contentious technologies available. At least, that is, to the Old Order, those lovely suit-clad corporate types bent on holding technology forever in the days of the — manual — typewriter. The technology, and the suits' dreams of a world free of it, are on trial in Australia, where Linux made an appearance today — at the defense table.

The matter at hand is a lawsuit by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft — yes, that's AFACT — against iiNet, an Australian internet service provider over the ISP's role in allowing its service to be used for illegal BitTorrent downloading.

The basis for the case, according to trial coverage, is an earlier case — concerning photocopies of print books — which held that the University of New South Wales was liable for copyright infringement essentially because they controlled the copiers. AFACT hopes to use the same argument against iiNet, holding it liable for what goes through because it owns the tube.

Linux made its appearance in defense of iiNet today, during iiNet CEO Michael Malone's the third day of cross examination. Obtaining Linux had already been listed as one many legal reasons for using BitTorrent, though AFACT's barrister sought to deflate the importance, describing it as "likely to be downloaded, if at all, once by the person who uses it." According to reports, Malone did not comment on the amount of traffic such downloads represent, but did point out that Linux is actually updated on a regular basis, presenting new opportunities for downloads.

Reportedly, Tony Bannon, AFACT's counsel, also suggested that iiNet itself was responsible for its customers use of BitTorrent in the first place. Malone pointed out that iiNet's customer service — who Bannon apparently insinuated were pushing BitTorrent on customers — does not handle third-party application support. He went on to defend iiNet's service representatives, rebuffing the implication that because they are "relatively young" they would be "the sort of people you would expect to be familiar with the processes for downloading via BitTorrent." "I don’t expect," he told the court, "that every young person in Australia is downloading illegally using BitTorrent."

Experts have suggested that, though the trial is scheduled to end in the near future, the result may be some months in coming. David Brennan — an Associate Professor of Law at Melbourne University and consultant for an Australian copyright management group — is quoted saying that "the period in which the court reserves to prepare its judgment will be measured in months rather than weeks." The matter is unlikely to end with the Federal Court — it will more thank likely land before the High Court of Australia for a final decision. (The High Court is roughly equivalent to the Supreme Courts of the UK and US.)

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Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

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Why hide your ignorance when you have so much to share?

quixote's picture

"likely to be downloaded, if at all, [only] once"

"relatively young ... the sort of people you would expect to be familiar with the processes for downloading via BitTorrent."

Bwahahahaha

(Is it just me or is there an odd sniffy British accent in the room?)

It's just another tool!

JimmyTheGeek's picture

Geez! These copyright ID10Ts need to realize that BitTorrent and the Internet are just tools! Much like the auto manufacturers cannot (and are not) held responsible for deaths cause by drunken drivers, and firearms manufacturers cannot be held responsible for what a person does with their firearms, how in the world can you hold the provider of a tool/software/Internet responsible for what the end user does with it? It was that USER'S CHOICE to use the software and Internet for those ends, not the coercion of the manufacturer that cause the user to do it! Some lawyers need to be disbarred!

Charset?

kolla's picture

What charset is this page anyways? Certainly not ascii, not latin0/latin1, not utf8, not cp1252 - I get "bugs" (unknown char squares) no matter what I select.

Like our governments, our

Anonymous's picture

Like our governments, our courts don't always get it right and often go to bat for the large corporate body. So the earlier quote is one we should all remember...

"The growing gap between litigators, legislators, the law, and the reality which people actually exist in, bodes ill for the continuance of western civilization.

Where corporate interests dictate government actions, to the complete exclusion of the interests of the general populace, what you have is not something that can be fairly described as a legitimate democratic government."

Three guesses and you're out

Paul Wayper's picture

The big issue in this case is actually much more straight forward than the AFACT people want to let on.

The various copyright watcher companies have been sending emails to iiNet asking them to ban various people based on allegations of illegal copying. iiNet has been responding by saying that it's quite happy to act on a police or court order, but it has no need to respond to infringement allegations especially from third-party companies (i.e. those that don't even own the allegedly infringed media but act on behalf of those who do). AFACT's response has been to try and claim that iiNet has to act on their allegations and legal process be damned.

The question of what Bittorrent is actually used for is (IMO) completely immaterial. If a company alleges that someone is selling children through their internet connection, their ISP is not obliged to do anything about it; only if the police come to them with the same allegation is the ISP obliged to act. AFACT wants to paint this all up as a conspiracy of evil technology by dragging everything it can into the blame game. They've already tried to get various other ISP-industry partners and counsels barred from presenting legal opinions to the court while allowing their own partners unrestricted access - just another legal ambit in the whole bag of dirty tricks.

My prediction is that this is going to play out the same way the Channel Nine vs IceTV case played out - AFACT will lose, it'll appeal and win based on some stupid technicality, and then iiNet will appeal and the book will be thrown at AFACT, in the process making some great legal precedent that says that ISPs aren't liable for any infringement in any situation. In the process the public outcry at the stupid greed of the copyright lobby will become more public and everyone will get a bit more clue.

Have fun,

Paul

Alternate realties

Anonymous's picture

The growing gap between litigators, legislators, the law, and the reality which people actually exist in, bodes ill for the continuance of western civilization.

Where corporate interests dictate government actions, to the complete exclusion of the interests of the general populace, what you have is not something that can be fairly described as a legitimate democratic government.

i swear, those copyright

turn.self.off's picture

i swear, those copyright lawyers must have some kind of alternate reality perception...

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