Alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom may be able to breathe a little easier after a landmark Australian High Court ruling that found internet provider iiNet was not responsible for illegal file-sharing by its users.
However, a law professor has warned millions of dollars of assets seized by police may never be returned to Dotcom, even if a bid to extradite him to the United States fails.
The chief executive of iiNet, Michael Malone, said the unanimous ruling by five judges, who dismissed an appeal by Hollywood studios that iiNet was a party to internet piracy by its customers, had ended three years of legal argument costing A$9 million (NZ$11.4m).
The Australian Financial Review said it was a test case of “global significance”.
Auckland lawyer Rick Shera said the ruling would be influential in New Zealand and was a positive development for Megaupload founder Dotcom and his co-accused.
“At its heart, Megaupload is about the responsibility of an online service provider for its users’ activity and that was exactly the core issue in the iiNet trial,” he said. While evidence in the two cases as to whether the companies encouraged piracy was not the same, Dotcom’s was a criminal prosecution, so the burden of proof needed to be stronger, he said.
However, Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis was cautious of drawing parallels between the cases, noting that while internet providers such as iiNet were essentially only conduits for file sharing, Megaupload hosted files on its servers.
The outcome of the Australian court is excellent. It is worth noting that the MPAA had lost the original case, the appeal and now this second appeal.
However like Prof Geddis I would be cautious about thinking what impact it may have on the Meagupload case, as there is a difference between merely providing access to the Internet, and providing a file upload and download service.