Federal Court Throws Out Dallas Buyers Club Piracy Case

The Federal Court has dismissed an attempt by a major film studio to access the private details of thousands of iiNet customers who they believed had illegally shared copies of the movie Dallas Buyers Club.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider Australia.

Justice Nye Perram dismissed the Dallas Buyers Club LLC case against iiNet entirely unless an appeal is made by February 16, in a potentially landmark ruling on movie piracy in Australia.

DBC LLC had been attempting to get the names of over 4000 iiNet account holders it was accusing of illegally sharing the Dallas Buyers Club film.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC was originally granted access in April to the 4726 iiNet account holders that have been accused of sharing the film over torrent networks. However Justice Perram put a stay on the order until the studio satisfied him with how they would communicate the alleged infringement to account holders and paid a $600,000 bond.

His biggest fear was a tactic known as speculative invoicing, where the company issues a demand for a sum of money that is often much more than they are actually owed and threaten legal action if the money isn’t paid. The alleged offender usually has no idea what they owe and pay the money to avoid legal costs.

DBC LLC eventually came back in August with their proposed method of communication, including a letter and a telephone call where they would ask for personal details of the offender, including their annual salaries. They would then seek damages for the following:

– The cost of a single copy of the film had it been authentically downloaded; – A claim for an amount based on each person who had accessed the uploaded film; – A claim for punitive damages depending on how many copies of non-DBC copyrighted works had been downloaded by each infringer; – and a claim for damages relating to the costs of obtaining to user’s details.

Justice Perram refused to lift the stay and gave new conditions, including the need to pay a $600,000 bond for access to the account names. Last week the company claimed it would now only ask for the cost of an individual license fee, as well as damages for its court costs. They also said they would also only pay $60,000 bond in exchange to having access to just 472 names initially.

Each person would have received the same claim amount, rather than claim based on individual circumstance proposed before.

However, DBC LLC was trying to claim costs for a worldwide non-exclusive distribution agreement, which Justice Parram did not agree on, writing in his judgement:

That factual debate was whether any BitTorrent infringers would have sought to negotiate a worldwide non-exclusive distribution agreement with DBC to authorise their uploading activities or whether infringers would have pursued other courses of action, for example, whether instead they would have rented the Film and paid $4.99 for the pleasure. On this factual question, I concluded that DBC’s contention was wholly unrealistic; indeed, I went so far as to describe it as ‘surreal’.

After ruling that the the license fee requests, as well as damage costs were unrealistic, Justice Parram said, ““Some finality must now be brought to these proceedings.”

“What I will do is make a self-executing order which will terminate the proceedings on Thursday 11 February 2016 at noon, unless DBC takes some step before then,” it was then ruled.


Comments

    At times I scratch my head in bewilderment at our legal system, but, without getting into the rights and wrongs of piracy itself and focusing on what DBC LLC was trying to do (i.e. ' claim costs for a worldwide non-exclusive distribution agreement'), I gotta say this Judge (or Justice as it may be) has his head screwed on tight.

      He will not get invited to Tony Abbot's christmas party. Abbot was a big fan of big end of town screwing over small vulnerable individuals......shame he had to go.

      Looks like the one with his head screw on tight stays and the screwball got the shaft. There is justice after all!

      Last edited 17/12/15 9:18 am

    They also said they would also only pay $60,000 bond in exchange to having access to just 472 names initially.

    This just shows both the arrogance and contempt DBC LLC have for our legal system. They think they can barter down decisions from the judge.

    At the rate they are going, DBC LLC are going to wind up as a huge example on why you don't defy a Judge/Justice.

      Suprised they didn't try for $6,000 and 47.2 users!

        They probably did, but decided as a gesture of "good faith" barter down to 10% instead of the usual 1%.

      Perhaps they can pay $60 for ten names and screw them for $100,000 each. I would love to be a fly on the wall at DBC meetings with their laywers - who knows what hair brain ideas they are coming up with. Perhaps they are thinking $6 for one name or 60 cents for an email address or 6 cents for some initials and PO box.

      Last edited 17/12/15 9:20 am

    I read the judgement from Justice Perram and in it he explains why he demanded the $600,000 bond - "I did this since it has no assets within the jurisdiction which could be forfeited if it breached its undertaking.”

    In other words DBC has no actual assets in Australia, and has no jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Australia. So this bond was seen as a guarantee against this lack of assets.

    So since DBC started proceedings, many friends have taken up paying for Netflix. you can watch the film there which is rather ironic on an iiNet account since you don't get billed for bandwidth ;)

    looks like they cut their claims hoping to get a few names to build up their slush fund and then scare/proceed against a lot of other people. boom. another backfire. they have been contemptuous from the start. was always such a "good idea" to broaden their case by claiming costs for other films pirated... hmmm. be like claiming Defamation costs because you thought a friend had something said about them...

    the bottom line: piracy is an issue. a complex one. some people do it for fun, some to save money. few would have paid to watch the film. so tangible loss is hard to claim. but also, just because an IP address is linked to some torrent monitor does NOT prove the account holder was the one responsible. proving the account holder did it was beyond the technology used. anyone who was in my house on those dates could have downloaded the film if they logged onto my WiFi without my knowledge. DBC could not prove otherwise. they can coerce and intimidate and speculatively invoice but they cannot prove which person did they deed in a house where more than one person shares an IP address or an unsecured WiFi.

      "just because an IP address is linked to some torrent monitor does NOT prove the account holder was the one responsible."
      Re this point- it's up to the account holder to ensure the security of their local connection.
      Look at it from another perspective: If I'm tethering my laptop to my mobile over an unsecured connection at a cafe in order to check my emails, & someone else logs on & streams 4K video, resulting in large excess data usage charges.
      Are you suggesting that I shouldn't have to pay that mobile bill? Or is it my fault for having a vulnerable connection?

    That factual debate was whether any BitTorrent infringers would have sought to negotiate a worldwide non-exclusive distribution agreement with DBC to authorise their uploading activities or whether infringers would have pursued other courses of action, for example, whether instead they would have rented the Film and paid $4.99 for the pleasure. On this factual question, I concluded that DBC’s contention was wholly unrealistic; indeed, I went so far as to describe it as ‘surreal’.

    The most sane and reasonable thing anyone in authority appears to have ever said on the subject.

    Worldwide licencing... fucking ridiculous. I honestly can't believe they kept pushing as far and as hard as they did. I mean, every single thing that Justice Perram ever said was the legal equivalent of saying, "Don't fucking push it, I'm not an an idiot, I can see what you're doing, and I'm not having any of your shenanigans," and yet they kept on pushing. Their disrespect for his intelligence and his very clearly stated intentions was their undoing.

    Last edited 17/12/15 4:17 pm

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