Pirate movies landmark case

It’s a landmark case in many respects and now that iiNet has won ISPs will no longer be liable for the illegal downloads of its users.

The film industry has sued iiNet for allowing its users to download pirate movies, the peer-to-peer and torrent downloading that so many people practice. The judgement doesn’t mean it’s legal or proper to steal other people’s intellectual property, it just means that the ISP is not liable for that theft.

It would seem obvious to me that the film industry needed a big target to sue and the ISP was the obvious choice. Suing every single infringer (who may download one movie, one song, or 1,000s) would be a nightmare. Sadly, for the film industry and those who like to watch movies, the case was narrowly defeated.

It would seem equally obvious to me that iiNet and other ISPs have a moral duty to police downloads to some degree. If someone was borrowing my car and using it to steal things, even just a few bags of cement from a construction site, I would feel morally obliged to withhold the car. Apparently when 100s of millions of dollars worth of movies change hands our ISPs feel no need to intervene at all.

I have some sympathy for the downloaders because so far in Australia there has been very little in the way of paid downloading available. It seems that no-one is yet prepared or able to negotiate the distribution rights with the big boys of film and television for Australia. Probably something to do with the size of our market and our slow and unreliable internet. And as everyone knows, riding your pushie down to the video stores is so 90s…you know, when teenagers had arms and legs that worked…

I was recently shown this site (http://www.movieberry.com/) as a site where you could legally download paid movies. My initial excitement soon turned to derision when I saw the naivety of the distribution methods. One of the hurdles with electronic distribution is having a form of the movie that you cannot own, that is terminated after the loan period. The movies at Movie Berry are yours to keep forever. What’s more, there is no control over your re-distribution of the film. You’re free to make a copy for all your mates, who can then copy them for their mates. One copy can turn into millions once it hits a torrent site.

Movie Berry has the latest movies. That is, movies that haven’t hit DVD yet. They could not possible negotiate distribution rights for movies that haven’t finished their run in the movie houses. No movie exec in the world is going to cut his/her throat with a deal like that.

Clearly Movie Berry would not be legal in our country, which is no doubt why it’s hosted in Russia. Whether it’s legal in Russia, or just not policed, is hard to say. Assuming it’s illegal in Russia (don’t they sign onto trade agreements with the rest of the world?) then you’re dealing with criminals, and you’re trusting them with your credit card details. A quick trawl of Google turned up a litany of complaints against Movie Berry, people urging others not to get involved with these thieves, such as this: “Do not and I repeat do not even consider doing business with these lowlifes.” And this, “It`s a scam” And this, “DO NOT SIGN UP WITH THESE LOW LIFE SCAMMERS !!!” You get the idea.

It can be tough getting movies in Australia if you’re not prepared to get off your arse and get down to the cinema or video store. Despite the ruling in favor of iiNet and the public face of Movie Berry looking so wholesome I would say to people that downloading movies is stealing and warn them that A) getting into bed with criminals is risky, and B) if the film industry and music industries cant hit the big targets, they’ll be looking to knock off a few the smaller. They suffer a swarm of bad PR every time they prosecute a downloader (and it’s massively expensive and time consuming) but I think that when they have nowhere else to turn they’ll come back and knock off a few downloaders again. Try not to be one of them. Or you could just rely on your own sense of justice and honesty, if you have any.