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Dec 16, 2015

Dallas Buyers Club loses (again) in its court pursuit of pirates

Tough luck, Dallas Buyers Club. A judge has ruled the company cannot send out letters to customers demanding damages.



Dallas Buyers Club LLC has until February to decide whether to give up on chasing people alleged to have downloaded the 2013 film of the same name after the Federal Court this afternoon shut down another of its attempts to chase alleged pirates in Australia.

Voltage, the film studio that produced Dallas Buyers Club, took iiNet and five other ISPs to court last year attempting to get details of customers linked to 4726 IP addresses alleged to have downloaded the film over peer-to-peer file-sharing services.

The court initially agreed to hand over details on the proviso the court would approve any letter sent out to customers to avoid threatening letters demanding thousands of dollars in compensation, similar to what the company had done in other jurisdictions.

Then in August Justice Nye Perram ruled that in order to get the details of the customers, Dallas Buyers Club would need to pay a $600,000 bond to the court and agree to terms in regards to how customers could be contacted. Dallas Buyers Club rejected this proposal but returned to court seeking to only get 10% of the customer details for 10% of the bond.

DBC wanted to set the terms of the letters it could send to customers, including asking for a fair and reasonable licence fee it could charge customers who were alleged to have shared the film online, and additional damages.

This afternoon, Perram rejected this request. Firstly, he said that DBC had no stated worldwide licence fee, and it would be difficult to apply a geographic-specific fee to torrenters who shared the film worldwide.

Secondly, on damages, the software DBC used was only able to detect that torrenters had uploaded a “sliver” of the entire movie file, and on that basis, Perram said any claim for damages against one account holder would be thrown out: “I should not permit DBC to make demands for sums of this kind.”

Perram dismissed the application, with costs to be paid by Dallas Buyers Club.

Perram made it clear that he thought the case had gone on too long already: “It needs to be kept in mind that what is before the court is a preliminary discovery application, not Ben-Hur.” The case has now run over a year, and Perram said “some finality must now be brought” to the case. He has ordered that proceedings will be terminated on February 11, 2016, unlesss Dallas Buyers Club appeals.

There remains a stalemate between film studios and internet service providers over a code that would allow them to send out warning letters to customers who were alleged to have infringed. New Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has said he still hopes that negotiations can result in a code being developed, but the two sides are divided over who should pay to send out the letters to customers. Crikey understands that the rights holders have been reluctant to continue negotiations.

Fairfax reported earlier this month that former prime minister Tony Abbott floated the idea of a $20 to $30 fine for users alleged to have infringed on copyrighted TV shows or movies, but this was rejected by then-communications minister Malcolm Turnbull before it saw the light of day. Internet service providers Crikey has asked about this proposal have said they were not informed about the idea by the former prime minister or the current prime minister.


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2 thoughts on “Dallas Buyers Club loses (again) in its court pursuit of pirates

  1. Rodney Pearce

    It is incredibly heartening to hear that the Justice in this case has completely avoided all of the issues that occurred in America with regards to speculative invoicing, john doe actions and outright legal intimidation. This was leading people to pay many times more per ‘infringement’ than the media is actually sold for.

    It clearly shows, in my opinion, that the rights holder here is not interested in simply ensuring that everyone pays for their copy, but instead are more interested in the action being able to self fund the legal team and turn more profit.

    It turns the tables of the legal system shutting poorer people out due to cost arse-about.

  2. Mike Smith

    Nice to see a Justice that has some technological ‘chops’ – and is using them.


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