Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), in conjunction with the Australian Consumers' Association and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, has lodged an amicus curiae application with the Full Federal Court in appeal proceedings regarding the Kazaa file-sharing software.
The three public interest groups, represented by the Communications Law Centre at Victoria University, are seeking permission to take part in the appeal as 'friends of the court'.
"The proposed submissions to the Court make clear EFA's view that a balanced approach to copyright law is needed to ensure that copyright does not unduly inhibit the rights of technology users and developers," said Matt Black, Chair of EFA. "We must not allow copyright to impede other important rights, including freedom of expression and privacy."
Under Australian copyright law, a person can be found to have infringed copyright if they have authorised the infringing activities of others. The public interest groups' proposed submissions petition the Court to develop a test for authorisation that would protect those who merely distribute technologies that have non-infringing uses. EFA believes that banning the distribution of file-sharing services that have potential non-infringing uses would have a chilling effect on legitimate technological development.
The case involves changes to copyright law that were implemented by the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000. This will be the first appellate level consideration of how copyright law applies to file-sharing technology in Australia.
Elizabeth Beal, Director of the Communications Law Centre, said the outcome of the appeal was likely to have wide-ranging implications and to be watched from around the world. "This is a major test case which will have serious ramifications for the ways in which Australians can communicate", said Ms Beal.
"This case concerns the application of new Digital Agenda laws to technologies such as P2P networks for the first time in Australia. It raises many issues about the rights and duties of technology developers, content providers and Internet users," said Mr Black. "How we resolve these issues is important for freedom of speech and other on-line rights."
The hearing of the appeal is scheduled to commence on 20 February 2006 in the Federal Court at Sydney. The decision on whether to grant the public interest groups' request for permission to make friend of the court submissions is a matter for the Full Court.