Hollywood Studios Lose Appeal on Australian Piracy Lawsuit

Walt Disney Co. and Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures are among Hollywood’s biggest movie studios that lost a piracy lawsuit in Australia as an appeals court upheld a ruling that a local internet provider wasn’t responsible for customers illegally downloading films.

The Federal Court of Australia Full Court, in a two-one decision, today upheld Judge Dennis Cowdroy’s Feb. 4, 2010, verdict that vindicated iiNet Ltd. The studios can appeal the ruling to the country’s High Court and a notice must be filed within 28 days, unless an extension is sought.

Village Roadshow Ltd.’s Roadshow Films led the companies trying to stop iiNet customers from using BitTorrent software to illegally download copyrighted films, in a precedent-setting case for all Internet providers in Australia. A ruling in the studios’ favor would have made all Internet providers liable for their customers’ conduct.

“The evidence supports a conclusion that iiNet demonstrated a dismissive and, indeed, contumelious, attitude to the complaints of infringement,” Judge Arthur Emmett wrote. “Its conduct did not amount to authorization of the primary acts of infringement on the part of iiNet users.”

iiNet rose 2 percent to A$2.55 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading on the Australian Stock Exchange, reversing an earlier decline of 1.6 percent. The stock has slid 12 percent this year, compared with a 1.4 percent gain for the S&P/ASX 200 index.

Also appealing Cowdroy’s ruling were Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., a unit of News Corp., and 30 other entities who owned or had exclusive licenses to commercially released films.

Future Lawsuits

Today’s victory for iiNet doesn’t protect Internet providers from future lawsuits and that they may be found liable, Emmett said.

“It does not necessarily follow from the failure of the present proceeding that circumstances could not exist whereby iiNet might in the future be held to have authorized primary acts of infringement,” Emmett wrote.

The case is Roadshow Films Pty. Ltd. v iiNet Ltd. NSD179/2010, Federal Court of Australia (Sydney.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at

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