iiNet back in court over P2P file sharing

iiNet is challenging an attempt by a copyright holder to obtain details of customers of the ISP alleged to have illegally downloaded a movie.

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC on 14 October initiated legal action in the Federal Court aimed at obtaining the details of a number of iiNet customers.

The company is seeking as part of a process of preliminary discovery the details of customers linked to IP addresses that it alleges were involved in downloading the 2013 movie Dallas Buyers Club using BitTorrent or other peer-to-peer software.

"In plain terms, Dallas Buyers Club wants the names and contact details of our customers they believe may have illegally shared their film," an iiNet blog entry stated.

Documents filed by Dallas Buyers Club list other prospective respondents as iiNet subsidiaries Adam Internet and Internode, as well as ISPs Amnet Broadband and Dodo, and Wideband Networks Pty Ltd.

iiNet said it would oppose the action by Dallas Buyers Club LLC.

"We are concerned that our customers will be unfairly targeted to settle any claims out of court using a practice called 'speculative invoicing'," the blog entry states.

"Speculative invoicing, as practiced overseas, commonly involves sending intimidating letters of demand to subscribers seeking significant sums for an alleged infringement. These letters often threaten court action and point to high monetary penalties if sums are not paid."

Computerworld Australia has asked representatives of Dallas Buyers Club LLC whether more ISPs are likely to be targetted for court action.

A number of lawsuits relating to unauthorised downloads of Dallas Buyers Club have been filed by the movie's studio, Voltage, in the US.

The iiNet case is due for a directions hearing on 4 November in the Federal Court in NSW.

iiNet was previously embroiled in a copyright-related court case brought against it by a number of movie studios. The lengthy court process, which began in 2009 and concluded in 2012, resulted in a High Court victory for the ISP.

That case revolved around the responsibility of the ISP for preventing the alleged copyright infringing activities of its customers.

The High Court's judgement noted that the movie studies that brought the action against the ISP, rather than pursue iiNet customers alleged to have downloaded movies, "seek to fix iiNet with the liability of a secondary infringer in relation to those primary infringements."

The judgement noted that "iiNet had no direct technical power at its disposal to prevent a customer from using the BitTorrent system to download the appellants' films on that customer's computer".

Reversing the outcome of that trial has been an explicit goal of Attorney-General George Brandis. The government has outlined a range of proposed changes to how online copyright enforcement functions in Australia in order to crack down on piracy.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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