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Judge: ISP Not Responsible for Illegal Downloads

In its fight to beat down piracy, major Hollywood studios have demanded that a Federal Court hold an Australian Internet Service Provider responsible for illegal content--namely pirated movies and TV shows--downloaded by its customers. Studios such as Paramount, Disney, and Twentieth Century Fox hoped that the case would open the door to an enforcement of copyright protection rights on an ISP level.

However, Justice Dennis Cowdroy didn't hold iiNet, Australia's third-largest ISP, accountable for the alleged copyright infringement. In fact, the judge ruled that iiNet did not authorize the downloads of the copyrighted material, nor did it have to power to stop the process. Although Cowdroy acknowledged the presence of widespread copyright violations, he did say that these violations were not the responsibility of iiNet.

According to the AFP, the case in question stems around "thousands" of downloads taking place on iiNet's Perth-based network. In a period of 59 weeks starting June 2008, nearly 90 films and TV episodes were downloaded using BitTorrent including "Heroes" and "Batman Begins." However the current ruling deems that iiNet isn't even partially to blame for the copyright infringement even though it provided the bandwidth "vessel" for downloaders.

"The evidence establishes that copyright infringement of the applicants' films is occurring on a large scale, and I infer that such infringements are occurring worldwide," he said. "However, such fact does not necessitate or compel... a finding of authorization, merely because it is felt that 'something must be done' to stop the infringements."

The AFP reports that, after the ruling, there was a lot of excitement from ISP's standing outside the courtroom. There were also some "very long faces from the studios."