Dallas Buyers Club downloaders safe for now

The latest attempt by the rights holders of Dallas Buyers Club to obtain the details of alleged movie pirates has failed.

The rights holders, Dallas Buyers Club LLC and Voltage Pictures, have been attempting in court action launched in October 2014 to obtain the details of ISP customers linked to IP addresses that participated in downloading the movie via BitTorrent.

DBC had intended to contact ISP customers and offer to come to a financial settlement for downloading the movie. In exchange, the company would commit to not taking legal action against alleged pirates.

Opposing DBC was a group of ISPs that operated services attached to the IP addresses that the company was interested in. The ISPs — iiNet, Adam Internet, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Dodo and Wideband Networks Pty Ltd — had indicated they were concerned about the possibility for so-called speculative invoicing, where large sums of money are demanded from piartes.

A Federal Court ruling earlier this year would have allowed the company to move ahead with contacting ISP customers. However, the judge presiding over the case, Justice Nye Perram, in an August judgement imposed a stay on his order granting preliminary discovery.

Perram said that he would lift that stay provided DBC abided by a series of conditions setting out restrictions on what the company could demand from downloaders.

Those conditions included seeking settlement based only on two of the four grounds that DBC had proposed to use as part of a formula for calculating its offer to downloaders, and that the company lodged a $600,000 security with the court to ensure it would abide by the terms of Perram’s ruling.

Perram ruled that DBC would be permitted to seek from individuals the cost of purchasing copy of Dallas Buyers Club and a portion of the cost of legal proceedings.

The latest round of proceedings saw DBC attempt to revisit the court’s decision to impose a stay.

In particular, DBC sought to revisit the question of whether a distribution licence fee could be incorporated into any demand for settlement and the question of additional damages linked to factors such as deterrence and the flagrancy of infringement.

In regards to the latter factor, DBC had originally sought to incorporate in its formula, details of which it has not revealed publicly, the number of other films an ISP customer had illicitly downloaded.

Perram rejected the latest round of DBC arguments on both counts.

A key issue in the latest application was the question of lodging a bond with the court. DBC had argued that the figure originally imposed would have a deleterious impact on its business.

It instead proposed to limit its contact to 10 per cent of the original group of IP addresses it had tendered, and consequentially lodge a bond of only $60,000.

Perram’s judgement said that the issue of a lower bond did not arise because he had would not be granting DBC the right to do anything beyond what he had already said he would permit in his August ruling.

The new DBC application was dismissed with costs awarded against the rights holders.

“Some finality must now be brought to these proceedings,” Perram’s judgement stated (elsewhere in his ruling he invoked the lengthy biblical screen epic, Ben-Hur).

“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,” the judge ruled.

The judgement stated that Perram would be disposed to grant leave to appeal his May and August rulings.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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