iiNet victorious in High Court stoush

Movie studios must make movies and TV shows affordable and quickly available to consumers in the same way iTunes has monetised music in order to reduce online piracy, according to iiNet chief Michael Malone.

Appearing tired but flushed after yesterday’s High Court win against a group of 34 film and television companies, Mr Malone said iiNet was vindicated in its view that it was not responsible for customers downloading pirated material.

The companies, represented by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), have been fighting to force iiNet to find and punish users who download illegal content.

“Four years and more than $20 million in legal expenses (for both sides) have not stopped one illegal download,” Mr Malone said. “We understand something needs to be done about people who are still out there infringing, but the primary reason, in my opinion, that people are infringing is that they can’t get content legally. The first step needs to make the material available.”

Despite losing its final appeal, AFACT managing director Neil Gane said the judges had recognised that legislative change was required to address copyright infringements and its next move would be to lobby the Federal Government.

“Now that we have taken this issue to the highest court in the land, it is time for Government to act,” Mr Gane said. “We are confident the Government would not want copyright infringement to go on unabated across Australian networks especially with the rollout of the NBN.”

Chief regulatory officer for iiNet, Steve Dalby, said movie companies should concentrate on improving their service to consumers.

“They spend so much money stimulating demand and then not supplying it,” he said. “The techniques they use, the delays, the geo-coding, all those methods which belong in another century have got to be looked at in the light of serving consumers.”

Mr Gane said there were already models for legitimately purchasing content, but “there isn’t a business model in the world that can compete with free”. “Commerce can only compete in a free market economy, not a free economy,” he said.

The company pointed to FetchTV and its other content offerings as a successful way to get users to pay for the movies and television programs they downloaded.

FetchTV, which is also available via Optus rebadged as MeTV, costs $10 a month and claims to be growing at a rate of 1000 subscribers a week in Australia.

About $6 million of the $9 million it spent on the legal battle was expected to be retrieved, iiNet said.

Its shares climbed 3 per cent, or 9¢, to $3.12.