So, I was reading the news today, and came across this story. It states:

THE NSW Federal Court has not ruled out the possibility that an ISP could be in direct breach of copyright laws if it provides internet service to individuals that illegally share files on peer-to-peer networks.

A group of copyright holders represented by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) put the claim to the court as a part of its copyright case against Perth-headquartered ISP iiNet.

Most of AFACT’s original claims against iiNet lodged with the court last year were based on allegations that the ISP indirectly breached their members’ copyright. They alleged that iiNet effectively encouraged customers to engage in copyright breaches by failing to take steps to block illegal file sharing activity on its network.

However, on February 19, AFACT lodged an amended statement of claim to the court containing new allegations that iiNet engaged in primary acts of copyright infringement alongside illegal file sharers simply by carrying the data through its network and systems.

(bold by me)

This is totally stupid! Why should an ISP be responsible for the data it's carrying? Why is the electricity company not responsible? They're supplying the power to the systems mentioned, so they also provide services to people that illegally share files. What about the building company that built the houses/offices? They're responsible for housing the systems.

The thing is, ISPs don't know what the data being transferred on their network actually is. Much like the postal service... When you send a letter to someone, they don't open your letter and read it, they just send it. If I send you a terrible analogy that makes you think "oh my God, this guy needs to take lessons on writing", that's not Australia Post's issue. The postal service, and the ISP, are just transport agents. They send mesages from one location to another, but are not responsible for the contents of the messages. Saying that the ISP is responsible for illegal file sharers because their network is being used is like saying that VicRoads is responsible for criminals, because they're driving their cars on the roads. Clearly, this makes absolutely no sense. If you go to VicRoads and tell them to put tollbooths on the roads to identify every person driving to make sure they're not a criminal, they'd laugh at you. The ISPs should be doing the same thing — This is exactly what's being asked of them.

Also, the article said that the ISP would be responsible if "it provides internet service to individuals that illegally share files on peer-to-peer networks". How are they meant to know that individuals illegally share files? Note that ISPs already disconnect users they get copyright complaints about (how users are caught is a different issue altogether... Fake torrents and similar things. Might blog about this eventually). There's really no other way for them to know who illegally shares files. This sentence makes it sound like they want ISPs to add a "Do you illegally share files" tickbox on the registration form. 😛

And also, as Aaron mentioned on his blog, "copyright theft" makes no sense. The term they're actually looking for is "copyright infringement". But, they seem to barely know what they're doing, so I guess the use of a nonsensical term makes sense in whatever magical land they're living in. A land where there's no Peer-to-Peer networks, and everyone pays for the latest crappy music albums and TV shows and whatever else exists. For now, the rest of us live in reality, where none of this filtering is possible.

— Daniel