iiNet has just concluded its conference call following its victory over AFACT in the High Court this morning. Amongst the topics discussed were the costs of legal action, where the industry goes to from here and why consumers should be part of the overall process for any kind of infringement framework.
iiNet chief executive officer Michael Malone and iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby held the conference call. Aside from the relief that victory bought them, they also welcomed the clarity that this particular legal precedent creates:
"We're very pleased with the result announced in the High Court this morning. This very strong decision is important, not just because the appeal has been dismissed but also the clarity it provides to the industry. The online infringement issue hasn't gone away; this decision hasn't changed that. But it does change the ground rules."
iiNet's not unaware that customers are, indeed, infringing copyright:
"We don't dispute there are customers out there making illegal dowloads available"
but its view is that this is primarily a failure of the rights holders to act in a twenty-first century manner:
"We don't agree with people making content available illegally; the first step to dealing with that is for content to be made available legally.
I'm [Michael Malone] a Game Of Thrones tragic, and it's killing me that I've got to wait weeks to see it while it's available on BitTorrent.
The (rights holders ) create demand for this wonderful content, but then it's not made available; it's very very strange. The delays, which really belong in another century, really have to be looked at in the light of servicing their customers."
iiNet has been awarded costs; its own legal fees ran to some 9 million dollars. It has estimated AFACT costs as somewhere north of twenty million dollars, but iiNet doesn't expect to get the full costs back.
"Costs have been awarded to us, but as always you don't get the full cost back. We're estimating that we'll get two-thirds back. "
The response worldwide has been overwhelmingly positive for iiNet:
"This is a world's first case; no case has gone to judgement in the highest court in the land elsewhere. I've had text messages and meals from people all over the world this morning. The wording of this case will be important in how this plays in their countries."
With regards to how the case has affected iiNet's reputation in the consumer marketplace:
"I'd argue it's positively affected our reputation in the marketplace. Our role is to connect customers to the internet, to connect customers to each other."
iiNet figures that AFACT will (as indicated in AFACT's own statements on the matter) now pursue legislative change:
"I think they'll look for legislative change; lobbying the attorney general or anyone else to influence them to make changes to the copyright act.We would say that the copyright act as it stands does protect their rights; they believe it's too costly to pursue individuals. I think if we could focus on the consumer, on what they want and delivering it to them, the problem would largely go away.
In the US where they've gone after individuals, they've attracted so much negative publicity. It's just not worth it, and I think it's not worth it for them to do that in Australia."
iiNet had been part of the Communications Alliance "five strikes" framework, and iiNet's still hopeful that it may become some kind of framework:
"It's still on our website -- we'll probably send them a copy. We had (our own offer) -- both were rejected out of hand. They may have changed their attitude after this morning's judgement was released."
Part of the problem as iiNet sees it is a lack of both information and transparency:
"In my engagement with AFACT and other rights holders, they have done very little to document what it was they would like to see; we've put detailed papers out in good faith; there hasn't been a response. This attitude that AFACT might have -- I mean, c'mon, let's get real, let's put a doc on the table that specifies exactly what it is that Australian rights holders want to see from the telecoms industry. Let's let the world see it -- consumers have been notably absent from these discussions. We'd like to see a proposal; if they want us to do something, put it out there publicly so consumers can see it."
iiNet's not suggesting that piracy is correct, but ultimately it still sees the issue as one of evolving the content model.
"The law as it stands has given clarity; this whole idea that people will wait 12-18 months; consumers are just not buying it. You've got to address what is now a broken model from last century."
Picture: David Mertl