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12 Apr 2011

A SUPER-CONGLOMERATE of Australia's major film entertainment companies has mobilised to negotiate with telecommunications companies to stamp out online piracy.

This follows the latest ruling in a landmark legal bid by Hollywood interests in the Federal Court to hold internet service providers to account for online copyright infringement.

Last week, The Australian reported that a group called the Australian Content Industry Group had been holding secret talks with the Communications Alliance to solve the problem before the ruling was handed down.

This week, The Australian can report that a larger group including almost every major film and entertainment heavyweight operating in Australia has formed to join ACIG in negotiating with carriers and the government for a solution to online piracy.

The group, to be called the Digital Entertainment Alliance Australia includes BBC Worldwide, Foxtel, News Limited (publisher of The Australian), the Independent Cinemas Association, the National Association of Cinema Operators, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Hopscotch Films, Hoyts, Blockbuster, Video Ezy, Deluxe Entertainment, Potential Films, Palace Films and Becker Entertainment.

It is understood that the group has no formal chairman or spokesman at this stage.

The Australian understands that the group actively began developing terms to negotiate after the full bench of the Federal Court handed down its last ruling in the court battle between a group of 34 entertainment companies and Perth-based ISP iiNet.

Since late 2008, the group has been trying to convince the court that iiNet authorised its customers to illegally copyright content online by refusing to pass on to them infringement notices generated by AFACT investigators.

The litigation, which is the first of its kind to reach trial phase anywhere in the world, is being run by AFACT, on the studios' behalf.

AFACT appealed to the full bench of the Federal Court after primary judge Dennis Cowdroy ruled in February last year that iiNet's inaction could not amount to authorisation.

The full bench of the court also found in iiNet's favour last month, but AFACT has taken the legal view that the case turned on technical points over the quality of the infringements notices and that the full bench extinguished crucial legal arguments set out in Justice Cowdroy's original ruling.

At the time, AFACT chief Neil Gane said the full court had "unanimously made it very apparent that ISPs do have a role to play in preventing online infringements".

The federation has also lodged an application for special leave to appeal against the ruling in the High Court.

Communications Alliance chief John Stanton last week declined to offer his legal opinion on the implications of the full bench ruling for ISPs.

The Australian discovered the existence of the DEAA after ACIG spokeswoman, MIPI general manager Sabiene Heindl, confirmed it was trying to gain co-operation from the film industry in its negotiations. "The ACIG is in continued dialogue with the film industry," Ms Heindl said.

Source: theaustralian.com

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