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Film & TV

Mar 11, 2016

Village Roadshow 'actively considering' Dallas Buyers Club piracy case sequel

Downloaders beware: Village Roadshow is considering pursuing copyright infringers in the courts, though a similar test case by Dallas Buyers Club was unsuccessful.



Just when you thought it was safe to download, the film company behind Mad Max: Fury Road and The Lego Movie is actively considering chasing down and sending letters to people who pirate the company’s films.

A sequel to the Dallas Buyers Club court case could be on the way as Village Roadshow CEO Graham Burke confirmed to Crikey that the company was “actively considering” following the lead of Dallas Buyers Club LLC and seeking the details of alleged pirates from internet service providers in court.

In the Dallas Buyers Club case, film company Voltage attempted to gain access to the details of more than 4000 Australian customers from ISPs including iiNet who the company alleged had downloaded the Oscar-winning film over peer-to-peer services. The court eventually declined to hand over the details unless Voltage was willing to put up $600,000 in bond money and agreed to send a specific court-approved letter to customers asking only for cost recovery. The bond was needed because Voltage has no presence in Australia, and Justice Nye Perram was concerned the company would take customer details to send threatening letters, and the court would be unable to intervene.

Crikey exclusively reported last month that after the court refused a peace offering from Voltage, the Dallas Buyers Club decided not to take the appeal further.

While it had been speculated that the result would mean that other film companies would be reluctant to mount similar cases due to the high costs involved, Burke said his company was already tracking users who shared Village Roadshow films over peer-to-peer services and was “actively considering” launching a similar case.

“It’s something we’re having a closer look at. If we were to pursue it, we’d be doing it on the basis of a fair and reasonable approach. I think they have a different approach.”

Burke could not say when a case would be launched but said it was “under active consideration”.

Village Roadshow was the company involved in one of Australia’s most prominent piracy court cases, against iiNet, which went all the way to the High Court in 2011. Film studios had sent iiNet notices alleging that certain users were illegally downloading films, which iiNet declined to pass on. But the High Court found that failing to pass on the notifications did not mean iiNet was authorising the activity.

Burke was this week appointed to chair IP Australia Foundation, renamed to Creative Content Australia. The organisation boasts a number of major Australian film and television studios, including Village and Foxtel, as members, and Burke says the organisation is about “enlightening people about the reality of piracy”.

“Pirates: they don’t employ one Australian. They don’t pay one cent in Australian tax and they make millions of dollars in advertising revenues.”

The name change was needed, he says, because no one understood what IP Australia Foundation meant.

“No one can relate to it. It sounds like some sort of obscure medical condition, IPAF. Whereas Creative Content says what this fight is all about. It’s about protecting creative content.”

He said the main focus would be on educating casual downloaders who might not be aware of the impact of piracy, and this campaign would run in parallel with legal challenges to block piracy websites, due in court next week, and potentially tracking down individual copyright infringers.

“We’re not going to win this war against these criminals unless we work on three fronts: legislation, communication, and availability and price,” Burke said.

Burke admits that three years ago the industry was “stupid and greedy” about the price of content, but said prices had come into line with the US and the UK, and the arrival of streaming services such as Netflix and Stan was having a big impact on piracy in Australia.

Burke confirmed reports several weeks ago that rights holders had abandoned negotiations with ISPs over a system to send warning notices to downloaders to stop infringing, due to the cost to send out the notices. Both ISPs and the federal government confirmed to Crikey at the time that they were not aware that rights holders had walked away from the discussions, but Burke said they had been aware.

“They were continually informed of it. It certainly wasn’t a shock to the government, and it certainly wasn’t a shock to the ISPs. If the cost of sending out notices is somewhere between $15 and $20, it’s impractical. Let’s put it on hold until automation comes. I’m told automation is inevitable.”

Crikey understands one large ISP considered an automated system three years ago, but the cost to build the system alone was estimated at around $3 million.


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17 thoughts on “Village Roadshow ‘actively considering’ Dallas Buyers Club piracy case sequel

  1. Laurie Patton

    Show us the money Graham! That is, prove that you are actually losing real dollars. Stop buggering around with solutions that don’t work and stop price gouging. Drop cinema prices and make online content available at the same price they pay in the US. That would do more to eliminate “piracy”.

  2. Norman Hanscombe

    You’re better aware than most Joshua that what’s needed is enforceable tougher penalties against this sort of theft. Without that it’s all puff pastry irrelevance.

  3. Peter Darco

    “Burke admits that three years ago the industry was “stupid and greedy” about the price of content, ”

    All is forgiven. Just tell me where to send the money.

  4. Mike Smith

    A sequel to the Dallas Buyers Club court case could be on the way as Village Roadshow CEO Graham Burke confirmed to Crikey that the company was “actively considering” following the lead of Dallas Buyers Club LLC and seeking the details of alleged pirates from internet service providers in court.

    Because DBC were so successful in their case. Wait! You mean their case was an abject failure? Burke must have a sh1tload of money to p1ss down the drain…

  5. Laurie Patton

    The Dallas Buyers Club case centred on less than 5000 alleged “pirates”. Hardly bid bucks involved. It’s looking suspiciously like Australia is being targeted in order to create a leal precedent that could be used in other countries where unlawful content downloading is a real problem. Silly us for going along with this buy enacting site-blocking laws in the absence of proof we have a serious issue.

  6. Mike Smith

    It isn’t any sort of theft, Norman. It doesn’t deprive the owners of property.

    theft: the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it

    Observe, that after your version of ‘theft’ has occurred, the owner is still in possession.

    This is copyright infringement. A different crime. Call it what it is.

  7. Peter Darco

    “This is copyright infringement. A different crime. Call it what it is.”

    Who was it that said: the bigger the lie the more it will be believed?

  8. Norman Hanscombe

    Mike Smith, if you believe using someone’s copyrighted material for your benefit without his permission isn’t theft, it’s fortunate you aren’t a lawyer because you’d not be attracting many clients.

  9. Laurie Patton

    And as our prime minister has pointed out downloading via VPN’s is not a crime. The Government’s own survey last year supported other research that shows many people who unlawfully download copyrighted material they can’t get lawfully are also heavy users of paid for content. In other words, the reason why people become “pirates” is often because the content they want is not readily available. The film Dallas Buyers Club was not available online in Australia at the time of the allegedly unlawful downloading.

  10. Norman Hanscombe

    Peter, I doubt those being ripped off take comfort from your trite game of semantics in the worst sense of that word.

  11. Norman Hanscombe

    Laurie, if ever you’re in Court, pray that your barrister presents a better case than do you in Post #9.

  12. Rippled Sphincter

    Pretty much everyone in Australia (a.) pays tax and (b.) pirates content. My mother’s golf club buddies pirate content. The office chicks at the company I work at cheerfully go around telling everyone ‘the DVD guy’s here’ when the bloke who sells rips of current movies turns up each week at the door. Friends on Facebook cheerfully message me with the preferred torrent site when I ask where they got copies of the show they’ve been watching. I doubt I’m alone in this. Pirating content non-stop is evidently as Australian as close up shots of Delvene Delaney’s arse in ripped denim short-shorts were on the Paul Hogan show and I’ll be damned if Village Roadshow are going to suggest otherwise.

  13. Norman Hanscombe

    Unfortunately Rippled Sphincter, the Crikey Commissariat seems Hell bent on protecting certain forms of theft which don’t hurt their finances.

  14. Marcus Powell

    Graham’s comment that “the main focus would be on educating casual downloaders” pretty much says it all, because they’re probably the only ones too stupid to disguise what they’re doing by using a VPN, or using the TOR network. Both of these measures, along with others such as the ‘turbo’ feature in the Opera browser will also defeat any attempt at ISP blocking.

  15. Laurie Patton

    Let’s not forget that downloading without paying is a breach of copyright. It ultimately stifles creative endeavour. I don’t think that “pirating content non-stop” is actually as widespread as “Rippled Sphincter” suggests. Shame, BTW, for hiding behind a pseudonym. IMO most Australians would happily pay if the stuff they wanted to watch was easily available at a reasonable price or would wait for it to be screened on free-to-air.

  16. AR

    Fing ’bout cartels is, they are so stolid & unimaginative.
    I heard “It ultimately stifles creative endeavour.”… ohh, right, in the mid 70s when every kid with half a brain was taping LPs.
    Didn’t that campaign go well?

  17. Peter Darco

    ‘downloading without paying is a breach of copyright. It ultimately stifles creative endeavour. ‘

    I seem to recall reading that rock bands even when very successful get almost nothing from music distributors.

    It turns out that most agreements allow costs to be deducted before royalties are paid. Oddly there seems no limit to deductable costs.

    Thus rock bands now consider free distribution of their work as advertising for their live concerts which is where they do make money.


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