Pokemon v Redbubble: the DMCA doesn’t apply Down Under

Pagone J has awarded Pokémon $1 in damages and 70% of its costs from Redbubble for misleading or deceptive conduct and copyright infringement. An interesting aspect of the case is that Redbubble’s implementation of a notice and take down scheme under the DMCA didn’t save it from liability, but did influence the ruling on remedies.[1]

Redbubble provides a print on demand online market place by which artists can upload their works to the Redbubble website and purchasers can then buy the artworks or designs applied to desired products such as t-shirts, cups and the like. A person uploading a work to the marketplace warrants that he or she has the relevant intellectual property rights and indemnified Redbubble against infringement claims.

The evidence showed Google searches in which paid (sponsored) and organic search results listing “Pokémon” products such as t-shirts bearing Pokemon’s Pikachu character[2] which could be ordered from the Redbubble site. The sponsored links were paid for and arranged by Redbubble through the Google Merchant Centre and the products themselves were offered for sale through Google Shopping. From the tenor of the judgment, I think that the designs were uploaded by third parties, but Redbubble arranged the “fulfillers” who printed and shipped the t-shirts (and other products) with the designs printed on them.

Pagone J found that Pokémon owned the copyright in the images of the Pokémon characters depicted on the various products in evidence. Further, the images were uploaded without Pokemon’s consent.

Pagone J found therefore that Redbubble had infringed Pokemon’s copyright and misrepresented, contrary to sections 18[3] and 29(1)(g) and (h) of the Australian Consumer Law, that the products were official or authorised Pokémon products.

In finding that there had been misrepresentations that the products were sponsored or approved by Pokémon, Pagone J referred, amongst other things, to the fact that the “sponsored” links did include the word “sponsored” (although this meant in fact that the products were sponsored by Redbubble, not Pokemon). His Honour also found significance in the fact that:

There was nothing on the Redbubble website to inform the consumer that there was no connection, authorised or otherwise, between Redbubble on the one hand and [Pokemon] (or any other entity authorised to exploit Pokémon products) on the other.

Copyright subsistence and ownership

Pokémon was able to prove it owned the copyright in the artistic works through the evidence of its attorney responsible for obtaining copyright registration in the USA. Although the attorney, Mr Monahan, had not been personally present when any works were created, Pagone J considered his evidence sufficient. At 36, his Honour said:

…. He conceded in cross?examination that he had not stood over the shoulder of any creator and, therefore, that he did not have direct eyewitness, or other direct, knowledge beyond that gained from “detailed consultation with the client” but that “with respect to each series of the cards, [he had] consult[ed] with the client to determine which – for instance, which Japanese card they derive[d] from, or [… where] the artwork comes from”. His specific and direct evidence was that of consulting with the client to determine that the works were made by the Japanese company and were made as the Japanese card, although, as mentioned, he did not fly personally to Japan and had not been witness to the creation process. It had been his specific professional responsibility to obtain and secure registrations in accordance with lawful entitlements and requirements. He was confident in that context of his conclusion that the Pikachu work was not a copy based upon an animation cell because of his experience over many years of consulting with the client as his professional obligations and legal duties. In specific response in cross?examination about being confident in giving evidence that the pose of Pikachu was not derivative of any other pose already published, Mr Monahan said that every investigation he had done about the card making process enabled him to say that the cards were generated on their own and were not derivative of the animation, “common poses notwithstanding”.[4]

Further, unlike Perram J in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Pagone J also accepted that the certificate of copyright registration in the USA identifying Pokémon as the claimant to copyright ownership was sufficient to enliven the presumption under s 126B(3) of the Copyright Act. (Given the history of the provision recounted by his Honour, one might think this should not be too controversial: afterall, how many other countries out there have a copyright registration system?)

Copyright infringement

Pagone J then held that Redbubble had infringed the copyright in three ways. First, his Honour held that Redbubble infringed by communicating the infringing images from its website. Although the images were uploaded by third parties, Redbubble made the communication for the purposes of [s 22(6)][22]: Pagone J distinguished Redbubble’s position from that of ISPs like iiNet at [48]:

In the present case Redbubble does not provide the content of the communications in the sense of being the originator of any of the 29 images on its website said to be infringements of the Pikachu work. In each case the originator was the artist who had placed the image on the Redbubble website. Redbubble, however, was responsible for determining that content through its processes, protocols and arrangements with the artists. Redbubble’s position is not like that of an internet provider. Redbubble is the host of the website with the infringing material. It has a user agreement with artists which deals with matters including the possibility of infringing materials, an IP policy, and a team dedicated to deal with impermissible content.

Secondly, offering the products for sale online was sufficient to enliven s 38 which, amongst other things, extends to exhibiting “infringing” articles in public by way of trade.

Although there appear to have been some rather unspecific complaints about copyright infringement by Pokémon between 2012 and 2014,[5] Pagone J found that Redbubble knew, or ought reasonably have known, that the products were infringing from the date of the letter of demand from Pokémon’s external solicitors on 25 November 2015.[6]

Thirdly, Pagone J held that Redbubble had infringed Pokemon’s copyright by authorising the manufacture of the infringing products when orders for their purchase were placed.

In this respect, it is worth noting that Redbubble had implemented and acted on a notice and takedown system under the (US) DMCA.[7] Pagone J recognised, therefore, that Redbubble did not expressly authorise infringement and took conscious, considered and reasonable steps, both proactively and responsively, to prevent infringements.[8] These, however, were not enough. At [67], his Honour said:

The business established by Redbubble carried the inherent risk of infringement of copyright of the kind complained of by [Pokemon]. It is true that Redbubble sought to mitigate the risk, but it was an inevitable incident of the business, as Redbubble chose to conduct it, that there were likely to be infringements. It could have prevented them by taking other steps but for business reasons Redbubble chose to deal with the risk of infringement by a process that enabled the infringements to occur. Such infringements were embedded in the system which was created for, and adopted by, Redbubble. There may have been a sound commercial basis for Redbubble to manage the risks of infringement as it did, but in doing so it authorised the infringements which occurred.

Remedies

Pokémon sought $44,555.84 in damages by way of lost royalties for the consumer law breaches and only nominal damages for copyright infringement. As already noted, however, Pagone J awarded only $1 in total.

The evidence did not establish that sales made by Redbubble were lost sales by Pokémon. There was, for example, no evidence that many of the sales were sales of kinds of products sold by Pokémon or its licensees. For example, his Honour said:

…. Many of the items sold through the Redbubble website involved a “mash up” of images, such as the combination of Pikachu and Homer Simpson. The finding of an infringing use of a work, or an impermissible representation in trade, does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the sale made by the infringement or upon the misrepresentation was necessarily a sale that would have been made by the wronged party. The unreliability of such an assumption in this case can be seen from the fact that the infringements were in the use of the image in mash ups in, and in items that were not sold or authorised for sale by [Pokemon]. ….

Given the notice and take down processes put in place by Redbubble, Pagone J was not prepared to find the infringements were “flagrant”, warranting the award of additional damages under s 115(4)

Pokémon Company International, Inc. v Redbubble Ltd [2017] FCA 1541


  1. Implementation and compliance with the DMCA scheme explicitly affected the ruling on additional damages.  ?
  2. Even if you haven’t played it, you must have seen all those people milling around in parks at lunchtime trying to “capture” these imaginary Pokémon Go “critters”. Pokemon itself has an even longer history. There are also trading card games and a successful television series which has been broadcast in Australia since 2000 and distributed on over 57,000 DVDs.  ?
  3. If you are not sweltering in the southern summer sun, s 18 provides “A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.” And s 29(1)(g) and (h) prohibit making false or misleading representations in trade or commerce about sponsorship, affiliation or approval.  ?
  4. Curiously, at [44] (when discussing ownership by proof of a certificate), his Honour also said Pokémon had not proved ownership on the basis of authorship.  ?
  5. In fact, Pagone J subsequently found that Redbubble did in fact remove listings when Pokemon notified it that they were infringing.  ?
  6. It is less than clear from the judgment what action Redbubble took in response to the letter of demand. Ordinarily, one would assume that it had continued engaging in the infringing conduct but that seems a bit surprising given Pagone J records that Redbubble did comply with other take down notices once the subject of complaint had been properly identified.  ?
  7. The DMCA, being US legislation, does not provide protection from infringement in Australia under the Australian Copyright Act 1968. Redbubble also purported to operate under the corresponding Australian provisions ss116AA – 116AJ but, of course, it is not a carriage service provider and so they do not apply either.  ?
  8. Cf. esp. Section 36(1A)(c)[s36].  ?

Another Infringed Innovation Patent And A Delivery Up Question

Product Management Group (PMG) has lost its appeal from Middleton J’s finding that it infringed Blue Gentian’s innovation patents for a self extending/collapsing garden hose.

The appeal seems like a fairly straightforward application of construction principles and demonstrates, yet again, how slender an innovation need be to secure a monopoly for eight years.

There may, however, be a question for the future whether or not the “substantial contribution” to the working of the “invention” required by s 7(4) must be a positive contribution to the working of the invention.[1]

An interesting point is the Order Middleton J made for delivery up. His Honour did not just require delivery up of PMG’s unsold stock and componentry. In addition, by paragraph 3(c), his Honour ordered that PMG should contact the customers to which it hold sold the infringing products, offer them a refund and request that they return the products to PMG.

Nicholas J considered this travelled well beyond the purpose of an order for delivery up. His Honour considered that purpose was to relieve the infringer from the “temptation” of further infringing and so, in that sense, was in aid of the injunction. Nicholas J considered that an order requiring a party to try and retrieve property to which it no longer had any legal title could not fairly be described as in aid of delivery up and so would have set aside that part of the Order.

In circumstances where the Court had not been favoured with any oral submissions and only brief mention in written submissions, however, Kenny and Beach JJ were not persuaded that his Honour’s discretion miscarried and their Honours would let it stand in this case. However, they warned:

But our rejection of this ground should not be taken as any endorsement of this form of order for the future. We doubt that such an order would ordinarily be appropriate. We do not need to comment further.

This may pose an interesting dilemma for “convicted” infringers: object to such an order or, as the purchasers’ use of an infringing product would itself be an infringement, risk having the successful plaintiff require discovery and then suing the individual customers for infringement too.[2]

Product Management Group Pty Ltd v Blue Gentian LLC [2015] FCAFC 179


  1. Compare Kenny and Beach JJ at [178] to Nicholas J at [284].  ?
  2. On the approach taken vy Yates J in Winnebago (No 4). Of course, the plaintiff might not be willing to pursue individual purchasers of garden hoses, but what about Bunnings and the other hardware chains?  ?

Online copyright infringement reforms announced

The Attorney-General and the Minister for Communications have issued a joint media release announcing the Government’s response to July’s Issues Paper:

  1. First step: they have written to “industry leaders” and told them to come up with an agreed industry code for a “graduated response” regime[1] to be registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under Part 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1997;
  2. Second step: if the “industry leaders” cannot come up with an agreement within 120 days [2]:

    the Government will impose binding arrangements either by an industry code prescribed by the Attorney-General under the Copyright Act 1968 or an industry standard prescribed by the ACMA, at the direction of the Minister for Communications under the Telecommunications Act.

  3. Third step: the Government will also amend the Copyright Act to enable rights holders to get injunctions ordering ISPs to block access to websites outside Australia that provide access to infringing content.

Well, at least, Option 1 in the Issues Paper seems to have died a deserved death.[3] The media release does not mention, however, whether or not the Government will extend the “safe harbour” provisions to “service providers” and not just “carriage service providers”.

The letter the Government sent to “industry leaders” did provide some general direction about the contents of the anticipated industry code:

  • that ISPs take reasonable steps (including the development of an education and warning notice scheme) to deter online copyright infringement on their network, when they are made aware of infringing subscribers, in a manner that is proportionate to the infringement
  • informing consumers of the implications of copyright infringement and legitimate alternatives that provide affordable and timely content
  • providing appropriate safeguards for consumers
  • fairly apportioning costs as between ISPs and rights holders
  • ensuring smaller ISPs are not unfairly or disproportionately affected, and
  • include a process for facilitated discovery to assist rights holders in taking direct copyright infringement action against a subscriber after an agreed number of notices

and included the exhortation:

Any code must be sustainable and technology neutral. It should be educative and attempt to address the reasons that people are accessing unauthorised content. Consumer interests must be given genuine consideration in your negotiations.

There is no more detail on what sanctions, if any, would apply.[4]

The media release also includes a warning, of sorts, to the right holders:

The issue of affordability and accessibility of legitimate content is a key factor in reducing online copyright infringement. The Government welcomes recent action by content owners and expects industry to continue to respond to this demand from consumers in the digital market.

It will be interesting to see if the “industry leaders” can come up with an agreed code, given they have failed to reach agreement for over a decade now. Even if the Government is forced to impose a code, it may also be interesting see which ISPs join in the scheme. If there is an industry code and significant ISPs join in, would that be a basis for reconsidering the High Court’s ruling of non-authorisation in the iiNet case which was predicated, at least in part, on the ability of subscribers to jump ship from iiNet to another ISP if sanctions were imposed.

Lid dip: David Andrews.


  1. That is a system whereby subscribers get some number of notices that their account is (allegedly) being used to infringe copyright and warning them to stop or …. All the media release says at this stage:  ?

    The code will include a process to notify consumers when a copyright breach has occurred and provide information on how they can gain access to legitimate content.

  2. According to the letter the Government sent to “industry leaders”, the industry code must be agreed by 8 April 2015. (Update: you can now read the letter via this link (scroll down).At the moment, I don’t seem to be able to find a copy of the letter, which was attached to the media release, online.)  ?
  3. The media release says that the effectiveness of these measures will be reviewed in 18 months as in “a world of rapid changes in technology and human behaviour, there is no single measure that can eliminate online copyright infringement.”.  ?
  4. Yesterday’s press reports suggested that “harsh measures” like internet throttling would not be available.  ?

Online copyright infringement – back to drawing board

The way the press is reporting it, the Minister for Communications – one of the two Ministers who released the Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper in July – recognises it’s back to the drawing board in light of the (apparently) unanimous disapproval.

SMH

News

You can find the submissions received here (apparently they are being uploaded over time).

Will the ISPs voluntarily sit down and negotiate a warning system with the copyright owners? Do we really want the copyright owners and the ISPs coming up with their own scheme without “our” input?

Copyright, ISPs and authorisation 2

I should note for the record, that the Government did officially release its Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper (pdf) on 30 July 2014.

Responses are required by 1 September 2014.

There are 3 main proposals:

  • extend the definition of ‘authorisation’ by amending ss 36(1A) and 101(1A)
  • introduce power for rights owners to obtain orders against ISPs to block access to infringing websites (like s 97A in the UK)
  • give some real scope to the “safe harbours” by extending their availability from “carriage service providers” to “service providers”.

The discussion paper does say in relation to ‘extended authorisation’:

The Copyright Act would be amended to clarify the application of authorisation liability under sections 36 and 101 to ISPs.

It’s not clear how this will be done. While the discussion paper does specifically identify amendments to ss 36(1A) and 101(1A), the proposed changes apply generally to everyone and not specifically to ISPs. It is also not immediately clear how the proposed changes in fact cause ISPs to become liable for authorisation.

It does seem to be a policy still in development.

The Minister for Communications linked the reforms to some positive action about the very high prices Australians are charged for online access to copyright materials such as recorded music, movies, software etc. compared to the prices charged overseas. [1]

He and the Attorney-General may also have different ideas about who should bear the costs of the scheme.


  1. A transcript of my talk to the Copyright Society on the House of Rep’s committee report “At What Cost: The IT Pricing Inquiry and Copyright” can be found in Vol 31(2) Copyright Reporter 1 (attributed to Nick Smith).  ?

Another copyright in project homes case

Some 5 years after it went hunting, Tamawood[1] has successfully sued Habitare (now with administrators and receivers and managers appointed) for infringing copyright in house plans.

Copyright in some plans was infringed (Torrington v Duplex 1 & Duplex B); but not in others (Conondale / Dunkeld v Duplex 2 & Duplex A).

One point of interest: Habitare commissioned Tamawood to develop plans for 2 new houses for it. These plans were submitted to the Brisbane City Council to obtain development approvals. The relationship with Tamawood broke down, however, and Habitare continued to use the plans. Collier J found that the “usual” (i.e. Beck v Montana)[2] implied licence did not apply here. It did not apply because Tamawood did not get paid the “usual” fee for doing the job: rather, it agreed to prepare the drawings at no cost on the basis that it would build the houses once development approval had been obtained. Once the deal fell through and Habitare decided not to proceed with Tamawood as the builder, therefore, its rights to use the plans terminated.

Continuing with the licensing theme, Mondo (which Habitare eventually used to design the houses in dispute) did infringe copyright by creating the infringing plans Duplex 1 and Duplex B plans. It did not infringe Tamawood’s copyright, however, when it downloaded the Torrington plans from Tamawood’s website. Tamawood made the plans available on its website for the whole world to see and download so Collier J considered Mondo’s purpose in using the downloaded plans to design competing houses was not relevant.[3]

(Mondo did succeed in its cross-claim against Habitare and 2 of its principals for misleading or deceptive conduct: they told Mondo that the copyright issues with Tamawood had been sorted out or resolved.)

A second point of interest is that the builder of Habitare’s infringing houses, Bloomer Constructions, successfully made out the “innocent infringer” defence provided by s 115(3). Cases where this defence has been relied on successfully are as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. It seems to have been because the builder became involved very late in the day: it had no knowledge of Tamawood’s involvement in the earlier stages and the plans it was provided with had Mondo’s name or title block.

Finally, a curiosity: the reasoning on authorisation liability manages not to refer to Roadshow v iiNet at all, but refers extensively to University of NSW v Moorhouse. In the event, Habitare apparently conceded it would be liable for authorising the infringements of the others. Two of its principal officers, Mr Peter O’Mara and a David Johnson, managed to escape liability, however. While they were heavily involved in the business, their involvement was mainly on the finance side rather than sales and marketing. Collier J seems to have found that, within Habitare, responsibility for the conduct that infringed had devolved on to 2 other officers, Shane O’Mara – Peter O’Mara’s son – and a Mr Speer. Her Honour also considered that, by engaging Mondo as architects, Peter O’Mara and Johnson took “reasonable steps to prevent or avoid the doing of the infringing act”.[4]

Tamawood Limited v Habitare Developments Pty Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (Receivers and Managers Appointed) (No 3) [2013] FCA 410


  1. Yes, it is that Tamawood.  ?
  2. See _e.g. Concrete Constructions_ at [71] – [75] per Kirby and Crennan JJ).  ?
  3. There is no discussion in the judgment of whether Tamawood’s website included a notice purporting to limit the use of the site, for example, to “personal use” or “private and non-commercial use” (whatever either of those may mean) or in any other way.  ?
  4. See s 36(1A)(c). No claim for authorisation or procurement appears to have been pursued against Shane O’Mara or Speer.  ?

Roadshow: second look

Now I’ve had some time to look at the Roadshow decision, I think it falls near the territory of the House of Lords’ Amstrad ruling but doesn’t go as far as the Supreme Court of Canada’s CCH Canada ruling.

The only issue before the High Court was whether or not iiNet (the ISP) was liable for authorising the infringements of copyright committed by 11 of its subscribers, who made available online various infringing copies of films through BitTorrent (even though it can be used for lawful purposes, I think I’ll let you go find your own copy if you’re so inclined). Given that iiNet had no role in BitTorrent, its subscribers’ choices to use BitTorrent or what they downloaded with BitTorrent, the film companies sought to put iiNet’s liability on the basis that (at [5]):

  • the provision by iiNet to its customers (and to other users of those customers’ accounts) of access to the internet, which can be used generally and, in particular, to access the BitTorrent system;
  • the infringement of the copyright in the appellants’ films by customers of iiNet who have made the films available online in whole or in part using the BitTorrent system;
  • the knowledge by iiNet of specific infringements, as drawn to its attention by notices from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (“AFACT”), representing the appellants;
  • the technical and contractual power of iiNet to terminate the provision of its services to customers infringing copyright; and
  • the failure by iiNet to take reasonable steps to warn identified infringing customers to cease their infringements and, if appropriate, to terminate the provision of its services to them. [1]

As you no doubt know by now, the High Court ruled unanimously that iiNet did not auhorise the infringements of the film companies’ copyrights.

The first thing to note is we’ve got those 2 teams giving separate judgments again: (French CJ, Crennan and Kiefel JJ; Gummow and Hayne JJ). Not quite sure where that is going although 2 members of team 1 will still be there after June 2013.

Next, all 5 judges agreed whether someone is liable for authorising is largely a question of fact to be determined in all the circumstances.

Then, despite what we had all thought since Moorhouse, all 5 judges agree that “authorise” does not mean “sanction, approve, countenance”. “Countenance” in particular includes connotations which ‘are remote from the reality of authorisation which the statute contemplates’ (at [68]) and go well beyond the ’core notion of “authorise”’ (at [125]).

Instead, in deciding whether or not there has been an authorisation all 5 judges directed attention to the 3 criteria specified in 101(1A) and 36(1A):

(a) the extent (if any) of the person’s power to prevent the doing of the act concerned;

(b) the nature of any relationship existing between the person and the person who did the act concerned;

(c) whether the person took any other reasonable steps to prevent or avoid the doing of the act, including whether the person complied with any relevant industry codes of practice.

All 5 judges recognise that the 3 s 101(1A) criteria are not exhaustive; they are the starting point (at [68]) and essential (at [135]), however, in this case at least they are the only criteria considered.

In applying these 3 factors, the 2 judgments reach pretty much the same conclusions:

(78) The extent of iiNet’s power was limited to an indirect power to prevent a customer’s primary infringement of the appellants’ films by terminating the contractual relationship between them. The information contained in the AFACT notices, as and when they were served, did not provide iiNet with a reasonable basis for sending warning notices to individual customers containing threats to suspend or terminate those customers’ accounts. For these reasons, iiNet’s inactivity after receipt of the AFACT notices did not give rise to an inference of authorisation (by “countenancing” or otherwise) of any act of primary infringement by its customers.

(146) The present case is not one where the conduct of the respondent’s business was such that the primary infringements utilising BitTorrent were “bound” to happen in the sense apparent in Evans v E Hulton & Co Ltd[165], and discussed earlier in these reasons[166]. Further, iiNet only in an attenuated sense had power to “control” the primary infringements utilising BitTorrent. It was not unreasonable for iiNet to take the view that it need not act upon the incomplete allegations of primary infringements in the AFACT Notices without further investigation which it should not be required itself to undertake, at its peril of committing secondary infringement.

These conclusions, however, summarise the results of a very multi-faceted and many layered inquiry. Any “power” that iiNet had was too “indirect” or “attenuated” essentially because:

  • iiNet had no involvement in BitTorrent or a user’s choice to use BitTorrent or what the user used BitTorrent for;
  • unlike Grokster (pdf) and Kazaa, iiNet did not encourage its users to use BitTorrent or seek to profit specifically from their infringing use;
  • iiNet did have a contractual power to suspend or terminate an account for breach (including for copyright infringement) but:
    • its obligation was to provide internet access which could be used for non-infringing or infringing purposes, not just infringing purposes;
    • terminating an account would not stop the user just using a different account, possibly with a different ISP;
    • iiNet would be liable for breach of contract if it suspended or terminated a user in response to an allegation and it turned out the user was not in fact infringing copyright. [2]

A third consideration highlighted in both judgments was the inadequate notice of infringements given through the AFACT notices. Remember, in keeping with Gibbs J, [3] the film companies argued that iiNet had knowledge that its requirement that users not infringe copyright was being ignored.

It was accepted that iiNet knew that more than half of its user’s usage involved BitTorrent (although not all of that constituted infringements). (at [38], [92]; but iiNet was no different to any other ISP in that regard).

The film companies also sent iiNet on a weekly basis AFACT notices which purported to set out information about subscriber’s accounts that were being used to communicate infringing copies. By the trial, iiNet accepted that these AFACT notices did in fact identify infringements. There were, however, a number of problems.

Most importantly, when the notices were sent, there was no explanation of how they were prepared or how they worked (not that that would have made any difference to how iiNet would have treated them) [4]; it was only after discovery and provision of expert evidence that iiNet could understand them sufficiently to accept their veracity ([34] and [75], [138]).

This raises the question: what is iiNet’s situation now that it has had explained to it and accepted as reliable the AFACT notices? That seems rather less clear.

The ‘reasonableness’ of iiNet’s inaction was at least in part predicated on its lack of knowledge given the problems with the AFACT notices.

First, French CJ, Crennan and Kiefel JJ say at [69], however,  that there cannot be liability for authorisation without power to prevent the primary infringement and, as already noted, any such power is lacking or too indirect. Gummow and Hayne JJ do not make so explicit a statement (and their Honours endorse imposition of liability where infringement is “bound” to happen). Nonetheless, their Honours do at several points emphasise the presence or absence of control, or direct power to control, the primary infringement as key facts. For example, [127] and in contrast to Moorhouse at [144] from which iiNet’s situation was “well removed”.

Secondly, the High Court seemed very reluctant to leave iiNet with the burden of having to check back to see whether a particular user was still infringing particularly in circumstances where it would have been dependent on the use of the film companies’ technology to do so. So French CJ, Crennan and Kiefel JJ said:

(74) Whatever responses iiNet received to warnings, iiNet would be obliged to update the investigative exercise underlying the AFACT notices either itself or by reference to subsequent AFACT notices (allowing an appropriate interval for compliance with a request to cease infringement) before proceeding further.

(75) Updating the investigative exercise in the AFACT notices would require iiNet to understand and apply DtecNet’s methodology – which, among other things, involved a permission to DtecNet from AFACT to use the BitTorrent system to download the appellants’ films. Before the filing of experts’ reports in the proceedings, the information in the AFACT notices did not approximate the evidence which would be expected to be filed in civil proceedings in which interlocutory relief was sought by a copyright owner in respect of an allegation of copyright infringement. Also, any wrongful termination of a customer’s account could expose iiNet to risk of liability. These considerations highlight the danger to an ISP, which is neither a copyright owner nor a licensee, which terminates (or threatens to terminate) a customer’s internet service in the absence of any industry protocol binding on all ISPs, or any, even interim, curial assessment of relevant matters.[5]

Thirdly, both judgments refer with approval to the Blank Tapes case and the majority’s recognition there that manufacturers of products such as blank tapes and video recorders, which have both lawful and unlawful uses, will not be liable for authorising copyright infringement even if they know it is likely that their products will be used to commit infringements (at [53] and [130]).

Both judgments conclude with calls for the legislature and/or co-operative industry codes to deal with the challenges these issues pose. It had seemed that a co-operative industry code required the near death experience in the Full Federal Court for motivation, but at least the 5 major ISPs kept plugging away.

Finally, what is the status of Moorhouse itself? Here the difference with Amstrad and CCH Canadian comes clearest. The House of Lords plainly thought Moorhouse was a copyright liability too far and, as the Roadshow High Court interpreted the judgment, limited authorisation to cases where the defendant granted, or purported to grant, the primary infringer the right to do the infringing act. The Supreme Court of Canada went even further and held that a law library was not liable for authorising infringements by photocopying in largely similar circumstances to Moorhouse (if one can overlook any difference between a reference library for lawyers and a university library). In contrast, the Roadshow High Court explained that the University was liable in Moorhouse because of the extent of its control over the photocopier, the books and the primary infringer’s activities: the circumstances in Roadshow were “well removed” from those in which liability was imposed on the University (at [144], see also [69]). This approach may reflect the legislative codification of criteria from Gibbs J’s judgment, but it also reflects the way iiNet put its case (at [60] – [61]).

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd [2012] HCA 16


  1. Slightly different formulation by Gummow and Hayne JJ at [142].  ?
  2. [66] – [70], [73]; [139] Gummow and Hayne JJ go so far as to point out that termination would deny the user access to the internet for non-infringing activities. Despite the criticisms directed at Higgins J’s opinion in Adelaide Corporation, all 5 judges appear to agree with his Honour’s view that a right to terminate a contract was wholly disproportionate (but, of course, there are all those other factors to, er, factor in). The Grokster / Kazaa point is made explicitly only by Gummow and Hayne JJ at [101]  ?
  3. See e.g. at [58] and at [14] in austlii’s online version of Moorhouse.  ?
  4. See the evidence recounted by Jagot J at [308] – [318] in the Full Court.  ?
  5. See also the summary of iiNet’s argument at [62] and Gummow and Hayne JJ at [138] – [139] and [143].  ?

Roadshow v iiNet

The High Court has unanimously dismissed Roadshow’s appeal in the case against iiNet.

On a first look, there are some references suggesting that our law is being brought back in line with the UK (CBS v Amstrad) and Canada (CCH Canada v Law Society of Upper Canada). Consideration will have to await further review.

Although unanimous, there are 2 judgments: as in iceTV, French CJ, Crennan and Kiefel JJ in one and Gummow and Hayne JJ in the second.

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd [2012] HCA 16

Inducing patent infringement in the USA

The US Supreme Court has ruled that liability for inducing infringement of a patent under US law requires knowledge of the patent or something called ‘wilful blindness’ to the patent’s existence.

Patently-O summarises and includes a link to download Global-Tech Appliances, inc. v. SEB S.A.

Now, I do know that their law is different to our law.

For a start, under our law infringement can lie in ‘authorising’ the infringer, not (just) inducing the infringement or that idea of contributory infringement – the patentee’s exclusive rights under s 13 include the right to authorise someone to exploit the patent as well as to exploit the patent.

In Ramset, the Full Court traced the old case law: you couldn’t be liable for ‘merely facilitating’ someone else to infringe by supplying materials to them, even if you knew they were going to use them to infringe. If your involvement was sufficient to amount to a common design, or procuring their infringement, however, which generally seemed to presuppose some knowledge of the patent – you could be liable.

Ramset itself knew of the patent’s existence in 1987, several years before it issued the brochure with instructions on how to assemble its product and use it in a way that infringed.

But, on general principles, liability for authorisation requires two elements: (1) that someone has done something which infringes the patent (or threatens to do so in a quia timet case) and (2) the alleged authoriser has done something, or may be supplied something, to entice (to use yet another synonym), induce, persuade or encourage the first person to do that infringing conduct.

The first person, the primary infringer, can be liable even if they do not know that there is a patent – they might escape liability for damages or an account in view of their innocence: see s 123. Why shouldn’t that also apply to the alleged authoriser. Indeed, s 123 would seem equally applicable to the alleged authoriser. And that indeed is the position that Bennett J has reached in Inverness Medical Switzerland GmbH v MDS Diagnostics Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 108, for example.

The copyright cases on authorisation go so far as to hold that, at least in some circumstances, a person who stands by with knowledge that infringing conduct is occurring, or may be is likely to occur, will be liable as an authoriser where they have power to do something about it. Perhaps, we’ll get a better understanding of what is the quality of that power to do something if the High Court grants special leave to Roadshow in the iiNet case.

Roadshow v iiNet

The film studios have announced they have sought special leave to appeal from the Full Federal Court’s 2-1 decision dismissing their claim that iiNet infringed their copyright by ‘authorising’ its subscribers’ infringing activities.

AFACT press release

iiNet press release.

Meanwhile, the iiA is still working on a workable solution for the future.