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The Dallas Buyers Club Ruling – what’s it all about…?

22 April, 2013
By Allison Orr

The Federal Court of Australia has ruled that Internet providers must provide details of Australian customers accused of illegally downloading The Dallas Byers Club.  The case was brought by Dallas Buyers Club LLC, the company that owns the rights to the 2013 film, who claimed to have identified 4,726 Australian IP addresses that illegally downloaded the film.

They asked that Australian ISPs hand over details of Australian customers.  The ISPs argued that it was a breach of privacy, but Justice Nye Perrman ruled on 7 April that they must hand the details over, but that they cannot be made public.  A letter will be sent to these individuals by the film’s owners, but it must be vetted by Justice Nye. They are required to provide a copy of it by May 6.

The latest wrangling in this case has the film’s owners and iiNet arguing over costs, and who gets the see the letter before it goes out.  The concerns over the content of the letter focus on speculative invoicing. 

The case sets a precedent in Australia, forcing ISPs to hand over customer details to rights holders.  Even if you shared a sliver of a file through BitTorrent, you can be targeted.  However, there are some problems connecting IP addresses of downloaders to actual people.  Cases in the US have resulted in accidental suing of dead people or printers.

The lawyer for the Dallas Buyers Club said that Australia is a jurisdiction with one of the highest rates of unauthorised downloading, and that this action was an attempt to try to change the balance for copyright owners.

It has been argued that one of the reasons for high illegal download rates in Australia is the obstacles to accessing new content legally: we pay more and wait longer.  In the case of Dallas Buyers Club, it took 3 months longer for Australian customers to be able to download it legally.  And a report by Choice last year showed that Australians are charged many times more than US customers for the same content.  But in September last year, Village Roadshow, the largest film distributor in Australia, changed their policy, so that films will be released here simultaneously or close to the US release date.  And with the arrival of NetFlicks, Stan and Presto providing so much legal content for on-demand download at a reasonable price, we’re about to see if that argument holds 

Previous research suggests that the arrival of Spotify, offering an inexpensive steaming music service, decreased music piracy in Australia.

Previously published in undefined.

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