‘Dallas Buyers Club’: Australian Court Rules Against Online Copyright Infringement

An Australian court ruling has decided that film studio Voltage can not issue proposed draft letters to alleged downloaders of the Dallas Buyers Club movie requesting payment. If the ruling had gone ahead, internet service providers would have been required to release details on customers who illegally downloaded the Dallas Buyers Club movie. Justice Nye Perram issued the following statement via the court proceedings on Friday.

“The applicant was claiming four heads of damages and was proposing to negotiate with account holders in relation to those four amounts.

“I’ve concluded that two of those amounts could never be recovered, and in those circumstances, I’ve decided that what is presently proposed by Dallas Buyers Club in terms of its correspondence ought not to be permitted.

“I therefore make these orders: I dismiss the prospective applicant’s application to lift the stay of order one made by me on the 6th of May; and I order the prospective applicants to pay the respondent’s costs of that application.”

Voltage Pictures was asking for four requests against downloaders of Dallas Buyers Club:

  • The cost of the purchase of a single copy of the film, for each copy of the film downloaded
  • A “licence fee” for each person found to have also uploaded the film
  • Extra damages depending on how many copies of other copyrighted works had been downloaded by each infringer
  • Court costs for expenses in retrieving each downloader’s name

While the Australian court proceeding over the case saw no issue with the first and the fourth request, they felt the other requests were too much on top of what Voltage Pictures were already asking. Justice Perram’s decision will effectively end “speculative invoicing” from happening in Australia.

The internet providers involved in the case, iiNet, Internode, Adam Internet, Dodo, Wideband and Amnet Broadband were relieved with the outcome. Australian internet provider, iiNet issued the following statement, via their Facebook page, in relation to the decision against Voltage and Dallas Buyers Club.

“We’re extremely pleased with the decision handed down by Justice Perram today. From the outset, we’ve never supported online copyright infringement but we couldn’t sit by and have our customers bullied by way of speculative invoicing. Today’s decision is a major blow to the speculative invoicing model and sets a precedent that future preliminary discovery applications will not follow this path.

“We believe the issue of copyright infringement is best addressed by studios making their content available in a more affordable and timely manner. The rise of video streaming and its popularity in Australia to date supports this and we will continue to do what we can to ensure our customers can enjoy the content they love.

According to ABC News Australia, Voltage Pictures used “German-based firm Maverick Eye UG to hunt down those sharing the film using software such as BitTorrent, and uncovered the total of 4,726 IP addresses.”

While many illegal downloaders are breathing a sigh of relief today, there is still the potential of Voltage Pictures issuing infringement letters if they agree to certain conditions, including covering the cost of the movie(s) downloaded and the court costs involved with obtaining the customers ISP address. The Australian court also wanted a $600,000 bond issued to prevent Voltage Pictures from obtaining customer details and sending out demands irrespective of what was required.

[Image credit: Voltage Pictures / Dallas Buyers Club]