Internet service provider iiNet has been ordered by Australia's Federal Court to hand over a sample of twenty customer records, to be used as evidence in a landmark copyright case.
At the close of the directions motions hearing today, both iiNet and film industry group AFACT (The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) could lay claim to a victory.
AFACT released a press statement within minutes of the hearing's conclusion, claiming that iiNet's request to discover documents relating to the film industry's global efforts to crack down on copyright had been rejected by the court.
The court also ordered iiNet to hand over the IP addresses and download history of twenty of iiNet's customer accounts, scrubbed of personal identifiers, to be used as evidence in the case.
Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer at iiNet told iTnews that AFACT was originally seeking in the order of 300-400 accounts.
A spokesperson for AFACT told iTnews that the twenty accounts were specified by AFACT. The spokesperson also said that several of the accounts within this evidence were gathered via 'trap purchases'.
A trap purchase involves an AFACT investigator downloading what they assume to be a copyright infringing file on the iiNet network to use against the ISP in court.
AFACT believes such a practice is permissible as evidence because by its interpretation of the law, a copyright infringement occurs when a person makes a file available for sharing, again when a file is transmitted to another user, and again when the file is downloaded.
"We are confident that the sample of twenty accounts ordered by the Court to be provided by iiNet will be more than adequate to illustrate the infringing behaviour of iiNet's subscribers," said Adrianne Pecotic, Executive Director of AFACT.
While iiNet's request for discovering the global copyright investigations of the film industry was struck down by the judge today, the ISP was granted some relief in relation to a request to have documents around local investigations brought before the court.
AFACT has been ordered to co-operate with iiNet in relation to 21 categories of discovery and produce documents in relation to 19 more.
Among them, the court will allow iiNet to see any 'form of demand' AFACT has served on other Internet Service Providers in Australia.
AFACT refused to divulge whether it has in fact sent any such form of demand on ISPs other than iiNet to date.
"The reason we asked for these documents was that we were looking for what this organisation, this conglomerate of Hollywood giants, has been trying to do overseas, and why it has chosen one Australian ISP to take action against. I thought that was a pretty reasonable request," said iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby.
"AFACT hasn't told us what it is we didn't do; they have simply said we didn't take reasonable steps to stop copyright infringement on our network. What we're trying to understand is what arrangements are defined as reasonable.
"There are 400 ISPs operating in Australia. If we were expected to take specific actions that nobody else is required to undertake, we would argue that is quite unreasonable. So we are asking AFACT the question while under the confidentiality of the court - what agreements do you have with other ISPs?"