Leaked State Department Cable Confirms What Everyone Already Knew: MPAA Was Behind Bogus Australian ISP Lawsuit

from the pulling-the-strings dept

When it comes to copyright issues, the various State Department leaks via Wikileaks have only served to confirm what pretty much everyone already knew. Earlier we'd covered revelations about US diplomatic involvement in new copyright laws in Spain, and the latest (as a bunch of you sent in) is the rather upfront admission that the MPAA was absolutely behind the decision to sue iiNet in Australia. As you may recall, the lawsuit, which was officially organized by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) along with the Australian arms of various movie studios, complained that Australian ISP iiNet didn't do enough to stop unauthorized file sharing. This was really a trial balloon of a case, because the MPAA knew damn well that blaming ISPs for the actions of their users was a tricky game to play. So, they tried to hit up iiNet from a slight tangent, sending over examples of infringement and then freaking out when iiNet didn't somehow magically stop all infringement.

Of course, the reality was that this was all driven directly from the MPAA in the US and iiNet was carefully chosen as a trial balloon given its size. As Richard Chirgwin notes, iiNet got to enjoy this experience because of its "Goldilocks status. iiNet was just right: Telstra is large, loud, litigious, and possessed of significant lobbying experience; too small a target and the case risked inviting the “bullying” perception that the MPAA was keen to avoid."
Despite the lead role of AFACT and the inclusion of Australian companies Village Roadshow and the Seven Network, this is an MPAA/American studios production. Mike Ellis, the Singapore-based President for Asia Pacific of the Motion Picture Association, briefed Ambassador on the filing on November 26. Ellis confirmed that MPAA was the mover behind AFACT's case (AFACT is essentially MPAA's Australian subcontractor; MPAA/MPA have no independent, formal presence here), acting on behalf of the six American studios involved. MPAA prefers that its leading role not be made public. AFACT and MPAA worked hard to get Village Roadshow and the Seven Network to agree to be the public Australian faces on the case to make it clear there are Australian equities at stake, and this isn't just Hollywood "bullying some poor little Australian ISP."

Why iiNet? Ellis said they were the right target on several levels. First, they are big enough to be important - iiNet is the third largest ISP in Australia. (Telstra, owners of top Australian ISP BigPond which has about half of the market, are the "big guns", Ellis admitted. It was clear Ellis did not want to begin by tangling with Telstra, Australia's former telecom monopoly and still-dominant player in telephony and internet, and a company with the financial resources and demonstrated willingness to fight hard and dirty, in court and out.) Ellis also said iiNet users had a particularly high copyright violation rate, and that its management has been consistently unhelpful on copyright infringements.
Amusingly, the cable claims the case is "very strong." Turns out that was wrong. iiNet famously won the case, and AFACT was even told to pay iiNet's legal costs. While an appeal somewhat limited the original (excellent and perceptive) ruling, it still crowned iiNet the winner. Perhaps the US government shouldn't trust the MPAA in setting the odds on its own lawsuits.

Anyway, while most people already knew that the MPAA was the key player here, it's nice to see it laid out in black and white. I'm also curious if the folks who usually rush to the comments to claim that the MPAA/RIAA aren't involved in some of the lawsuits we talk about will have any comment on this, since we've explained that most of these legal actions are coordinated from those two groups.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2011 @ 5:14pm

    Re:

    If we had NetFlix for $8/m like Canada does (and a similarly priced net infrastructure) there'd be a dramatic decrease in piracy

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