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You Might Not Get Fined For Downloading Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club pirates and torrenters, there may be a shining light at the end of the dark tunnel ahead of you. The studio behind the movie — and the recent court case against iiNet — has suggested that you might not necessarily be up for a four- or five-figure settlement fee for your illegitimate download.

In an interview with Triple J’s Hack current affairs program, Michael Wickstrom — the vice president of royalties at Dallas Buyers Club‘s parent company Voltage Pictures — said that the widely-shared “eight thousand, 10 thousand, 20 thousand” dollar figures were for infringements in the US, where the infringers had been alleged to be uploading and sharing multiple movies and pieces of content owned by Voltage, rather than just a single copy of a single film like Dallas Buyers Club.

Responding to a question from Triple J’s Tom Tilley — “A lot of people are quite worried. If someone listening right now has illegally downloaded or shared Dallas Buyers Club, should they be worried about getting a letter from you guys?” — Wickstrom was straightforward, but also moved to allay some fears about the financial penalty the company might move to impose: “…Yes. What I keep telling the public is we are working with our Australian attorneys to come up to an Australian solution to an Australian problem. What works in the US may not work… in Australia. But we are developing a system that becomes a deterrent.”

“I just see these different letters… sometimes the press takes the highest amount settlement letter — but there’s a reason for that, it wasn’t just one title. Some of the people we go after have a network of hundreds of films that they’re uploading, and that’s when you’re going to see these letters become public where we ask for eight thousand, 10 thousand, 20 thousand, whatever… because this person has every title… this is illegal distribution at its worst.”

But the average Australian is not likely to be held liable for anywhere near as substantial a figure, at least from the gist of the vice president’s comments to Hack. Wickstrom (emphasis ours): “I don’t feel the penalty should be so aggressive with the first-time offender who has downloaded one film. But something has to be done; and what has to be done is a public notice, a notice to stop any infringment, and if it continues there will be action — like their ISP connection will be shut down, or what have you.

“But it’s not always going to be a financial settlement.”

This comment from Wickstrom is the strongest statement yet that points towards Australian downloaders being let off comparatively lightly for downloading Dallas Buyers Club. To listen to it in Triple J’s Hack podcast segment, skip forward to around the 4:00 minute mark in the SoundCloud link below.

The Voltage Pictures VP also detailed the company’s standard process for sending these infringement letters out to alleged downloaders: “During what we call the discovery process, when we get the settlement letter… that’s the first letter that goes out to the account holder — to say there was an infringement, taking place at this IP address.

“And I think it’s up to the account holder to find out exactly who was doing that at that address. If I loan the keys to my car to a friend or relative, and that person committed a crime or hurt somebody, I am responsible… and the same applies to a computer, you don’t just let anyone have access to your computer, you have to be responsible.”

Wickstrom said he hoped to send a message that illegitimate downloading and copyright infringement “truly is impacting film and music. Independent musicians and filmmakers cannot continue to have all the profits eroded and continue as a business model.”

“We want to continue as a business, but when I see piracy rates in Australia reach above 50 per cent, that’s not a business model that can be sustained. Our stance would be to stop the uploading immediately.”

You can listen to the interview in full below.


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