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What does it mean for me if I downloaded the Dallas Buyers Club movie?

Dallas-buyers-club-05

UPDATE – 14 August 2015

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.

You can read more news related to the decision by searching the hashtag #iiDallas online.

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iiNet, along with a number of other ISPs, recently fronted up in the Federal Court after refusing to voluntarily hand over the personal details of customers that Dallas Buyers Club LLC (DBC) and Voltage Pictures LLC (Voltage) suspected of infringing copyright in their film.

There’s been plenty of discussion on the case and the outcome has brought mixed emotions. While Justice Perram granted the rights holders access to the customer data, he displayed a high degree of caution, considering the impact for both the rights holders and consumers. He ordered a number of important safeguards to protect our customers from being intimidated or threatened, which we know has occurred elsewhere in the world with these companies.

We don’t support or condone copyright infringement but we couldn’t sit by and have our customers potentially bullied by the process of speculative invoicing. Our concerns regarding speculative invoicing are explained in a previous blog post.

What exactly does the judgment mean?

It’s now certain that shortly after 21 May 2015 iiNet will be ordered to hand over the name and physical address details of customers whose accounts are suspected of being used to infringe copyright.

While this isn’t the best case scenario, any subsequent letters that are issued by the rights holders will need to be approved by the Court before they are sent to customers. It is important to remember that the Court’s findings in this case do not mean that DBC and Voltage’s allegations of copyright infringement have been proven. Any such letter is still only an allegation until an infringement is proven or admitted.

Now what?

The case generated a lot of interest amongst our customers and the community so we’ve got the answers to some of the common queries.

  • What exactly does the judgment mean?

It means that iiNet will be ordered to hand over the name and physical address details of accounts suspected of being used to infringe copyright. The rights holders may then contact those account holders using an approved notification, but they must not use the details for any other purpose and cannot share the details with other parties.

  • How can I find out if I’m on the list of alleged infringers?

iiNet will inform customers if their name is released to DBC and Voltage as a result of the Court’s orders. This will happen at the same time that details are handed over.

  • What should I do if I receive a letter?

If you do receive a letter you may want to get legal advice. iiNet is working with a law firm that has offered to provide pro-bono services for any of our customers. More details will be provided when agreement is reached on that front.

  • If I did infringe, what might the damages be?

It could be less than a parking ticket for single instances of infringement. The Judge did say that for single instances of infringement that damages could quite possibly be limited to the fee that would have been paid had the film been lawfully downloaded. This could be around $10.

“It may be true that for single instances of infringement the damages are likely to be modest and quite possibly limited to the foregone licence fee that would have been paid had the film been lawfully downloaded…” – Justice Perram

  • I have read that details will be handed over and letters will be sent in May. If I don’t receive anything during May does that mean I am in the clear?

The rights holders have requested that the customer details are provided in May, however, a deadline has not yet been determined by the Court. In any event, there may be some delay between when the rights holders receive people’s contact details and when they send out letters. The rights holders have indicated that they may be selective when pursuing individuals.

The timing for the letter will also be affected by the Court approval process for the content of letters. We continue to be involved to ensure that the content of the letters is as fair and reasonable as possible.

  • Does this open the floodgates for speculative invoicing of identified infringers?

Speculative invoicing has always been a major concern for us. Because rights holders need to submit a draft letter to the Court before they contact our customers, we expect that the risk of speculative invoicing practices will be avoided.

What’s more, we hope these conditions will prevent future speculative invoicing becoming common practice in Australia.

  • How will this affect customers in general?

It is up to content owners whether they take this course of action in future. It is also up to the courts as to whether or not they will grant each ‘Preliminary Discovery’ order, which needs to be made before ISPs can release any details. Although there are any number of rights holders who can take action like this, given the process and outcome in this case we’re hopeful that the strict conditions will reduce the likelihood of similar applications being made in the future.

  • Will changing ISPs solve the issue?

No. Changing your ISP now will not make any difference if your account has been linked with an alleged infringement already. The situation relates to past conduct (during the period of 2 April 2014 to 27 May 2014) and involves a number of internet companies as well as us.

  • What about future requests for details by other copyright owners?

‘Preliminary Discovery’ is a normal process for obtaining details prior to building a case for Court. Any party can lodge an application for consideration by the court on a case-by-case basis.

You should be aware, however that the Federal Government is changing the law to increase the ability for government agencies to access your information without a court order or warrant.

Why we took them on

We’re proud of the fact we took these guys on and while rights holders may claim a win on paper, we certainly achieved a result that will dent, if not break, the ‘business model’ of aggressive rights holders trying to bully the average consumer based on limited evidence of infringement. 

Here’s what we consider as ‘wins on the board’:

  • The initial letter issued by the rights holders must first be approved by the Judge. The extent to which the Court is willing to restrict what can be said in the letters will become clearer shortly when the Judge hands down the Court’s orders. The Court has described previous letters sent by Voltage as “very aggressive”. We are hopeful that the Court will ensure that the letters to our customers in this case will be considerably less threatening. If the Court permits it, we intend to continue our involvement in the application to ensure that customers are treated as fairly and reasonably as possible.
  • iiNet will not be required to hand over the phone numbers or email addresses of the customers that appear on the list of people who allegedly shared the film.
  • The rights holders will be required to cover the cost that ISPs incur for sourcing and providing the details.

We believe that these conditions may seriously disrupt the business case supporting speculative invoicing, enough to possibly discourage DBC, Voltage or other rights holders from taking similar action in future.

Moving forward

While we’re satisfied with the result and won’t be appealing the decision, there may still be implications for some customers.

If you do receive a letter you may want to get legal advice.

iiNet’s focus also turns to the industry copyright code scheme being developed by the Communications Alliance, in conjunction with rights holders and ISPs. The code, once approved, should supersede any current arrangements, but preliminary discovery will still be an option.

We’ll continue to do what we can to make quality entertainment more accessible to our customers. Our partnerships with Netflix and Fetch TV are examples of this and, as more opportunities become available in the future, we’ll be looking into them.

Photo credit: Evgeny Pavlov

56 comments

  1. thaiis says:

    Your defence of your customers in the face of aggressive actions by copyright fascists is laudable. I have been and always will be your customer.

  2. Roger says:

    hi guys
    I don’t really understand why these companies don’t change the way they do business. Look at youtube where you can stream some content that has adverts localised to you inserted in the stream. Surely thst would be a better way to go?

  3. Kevin says:

    Its time for these companies to step into the now. Limited releases, staggered releases and geo releases all need to be dropped. Releasing a movie on all formats, in all markets at once will greatly reduce pirating. Many people cant get to the cinema to see a movie, so their option is to either wait the 3,4 or 5 months it takes to be released on DVD, Blueray etc or they download the movie. Let people choose how they see the movie, but let them choose at the same time.

  4. Maya Michel says:

    My home has so many people coming through and they all use my download. I don’t oversee what they download, they have never given me reason to suspect their choices ~ but my limit is generally tested every month. How does this affect me if one of them downloaded the movie?

  5. Wes says:

    Who where the other ISPs?

  6. Anon says:

    You said ‘If you do receive a letter you may want to get legal advice.’

    Is that indicating that there might be a possibility for some large fines?

  7. Daniel says:

    I didn’t download this movie but what if one of my housemates did? I suppose that I am liable because the account is in my name. What is your advice going forward? Should I monitor the activities of my housemates online, or should each of us hold separate accounts for the same address? I doubt the latter is possible.

  8. Dave. B says:

    What’s stopping people from claiming that someone tapped into their wifi? As far as I know there’s no legal requirement to even have your wireless connection passworded at all. That’d be like charging a person whose car gets crashed into while it’s parked legally and unattended.

  9. john says:

    Are you going to warn the customers they are on this list?

  10. trustnoone says:

    I have never even heard of my parents caring about me this much. Seriously IINET thank you for showing the good fight and not backing down. While this case has little to do with me (unfortunately I’m renting so can’t get IINET and also I’m not someone who downloads illegally). The fact that you put your customers infront of your money, and did your best to protect their rights and privacy shows a lot from a company.
    You’re amazing!!

  11. Keenly says:

    How would I go about lodging the ‘initial letter’ to the judge, is the process for pirate victims outlined somewhere?

    I’m planning to release a get rich quick e-book for $20. Rather than wasting time by securing the download button behind a pay-wall I will simply allow the e-book to be downloaded illegally. finally i’ll use this fantastic new speculative invoicing system to chase down the pirates, I’m also expecting this method will reduce refund requests.

    Thanks in advance for your help, i will credit you in the e-book as the author

    — this post is free to read, but costs $5 per month for as long as it remains in your memory, payments will be speculatively invoiced —

  12. Peter Tilbrook says:

    If The takeover I may leave contact(s) be damned they cannot match even your patchy support.

  13. Jana Buvari says:

    I am so grateful of iinets dedication to this subject. Thankyou for your explanations!

  14. James says:

    Well done aussie government. Instead of looking at the root cause of illigal downloading, you let this happen. Whats stopping hundreds of other production companies from doing this?

    You still havent solved or changed anything just made the general public more screwed. Can we not file a class action for discrimination because they have only targeted iinet subscribers?

    Why should we get punished purely for choosing iinet, while others get nothing

  15. John Roberts says:

    Yes pirating movies is of course illegal, but the process of speculative invoicing is far worse. Give iinets responses I would recommend them to people.

  16. David says:

    You guys are the ISP that Australia deserves.

  17. Bren says:

    Great article & great work by iinet there’s not too many companies out there that would go to that level for their customers.

    Only wish you could now influence the Federal Government with them looking to change the law to increase the ability for government agencies to access users information without a court order or warrant.

    I agree with Kevin, release content to everyone around the world when things are launched and make them more accessible and cost effective for everyone.

    Flexibility and viewing options for all, it’s not hard when you remove ‘greed’

  18. Bob says:

    I don’t understand what they mean by single infringement? Is it referring to number of people that the file was shared to? The number of different titled movies downloaded in the the specified time frame or the number of time the single movie in question was downloaded by the individual?

  19. Bradley says:

    How can they prove who downloaded the movie?

  20. John says:

    The question that I have not heard asked is: “How did the litigants obtain the information in the first place?” Did the company hack one of the streaming providers? In other words was the information obtained legally and was this proven in court? Or does it mean that anyone who feels aggrieved in some way is entitled to hack wherever he/she wishes to obtain data to use in a court case?

  21. Cheese says:

    Great work from iiNet. We could have another hundred ISPs in the country and none of them would stand up for consumer rights while keeping customers informed on platforms like whirlpool. Unfortunately I’m not with you guys because of availability but will be when I move. As far as voltages dirty tactics go, I do find it very strange that they are planning to use “proof” of the alleged offenders sharing nonvoltage films to their benefit. Fair enough that they want compensation for copyright of their material but using other studios material as leverage is totally wrong.

  22. Chris says:

    Customer service at its best! Let’s hope any future merge/acquisition doesn’t diminish this excellent customer focused service. Well done iiNet.

  23. Anon says:

    @Bradley – They can’t , unless you admit it .

  24. Cevval says:

    I want to thank you for your attitude and stance against copyright trolls. I would like to chip in, even though I doubt I’ll ever set foot in Australia (I am from Turkey). Let me know if you have a paypal address for donations etc. for this effort.

  25. Justin says:

    The excuses are drying up, and getting content legally now had improved alot. To answer John your public IP address is advertised by a torrent client when you connect. They would have just loged these on the internet,so no need to hack anything or ironically steal anything. My prodiction is HBO Game of Thones is next that has to be a honeypot. Like society there will always be a dark side of the Internet, I’m sure there are ways to hide. However the way the government is going you my put a target on your back by using them.

  26. Brodge says:

    What happens to people who used to be with iiNet but are no longer with the company and have moved house since then? How does iiNet contact those people and how would an invoice even get to them?

  27. Anon says:

    I appreciate that iinet tried to fight the good fight, but I’m not at all confident that the outcome of this case will deter or has deterred Voltage from going after alleged infringers or from speculative invoicing. Voltage would of done a cost benefit analysis after the case. And given that they still seem OK with paying $100,000 (or perhaps less?) to iinet to retrieve customer and infringement data then it would suggest that they still think the benefits outweigh the costs e.g. they really believe they can recoup this $100,000 from infringers along with the costs incurred by them in getting lawyers to draft letters and so on. How do you recoup this amount and make money (after all they are copyright trolls) without seriously bleeding iinet customers? You can’t, so my guess is that iinet infringers are about to be in a world of hurt.

  28. Max says:

    And this is the only reason I’m with iiNet.

  29. Tony says:

    I will trust Iinet/Westnet to look after my interests as usual.
    Never been disappointed.
    Tony

  30. Greg Williams says:

    I agree with all of the positive comments about iiNet being committed to their customers. I remain committed to iiNet.

  31. Ben says:

    iiNet continues to demonstrate that is one of only a very few companies that really does respect their customers.
    Thank you

  32. Dave says:

    Since most users will have Dynamically allocated IP addresses from a DHCP Server with a lease time specified by iinet surely the question will arise as to the accuracy of iinet’s logs?

    An IP address could be used by a downloader then allocated to another user who receives the blackmail letter from DBC.

    Until they can match MAC addresses this is pure blackmail. Pay us a small amount or we’ll take you to court where you will lose thousands.

    Everyone will pay for fear not from guilt.

  33. paul says:

    Why iinet can’t delete the info about the user’s or change they current isp numbers.

  34. Gero girl says:

    Kevin has it in one – Movies should be available on all media at the same time. Instead of protecting a small proportion of the industry with a monopoly.

  35. Adrian says:

    Well, guess I’ll just have to start using VPN services more often. hahahaha Good on ya IINet.

    :)

  36. DELTA-GREEN says:

    Best of luck in your dealings with the Communications Alliance.

  37. Nick says:

    While the “Old Guard” try desperately to hang on to a world that has passed? There will be attempt to punish those trying to move forward!
    This is a historical fact and reality!
    All the “old media” are dying!
    And they don’t want to!
    Expect a fight for their lives. Because that’s what it is!

  38. Angela says:

    Sorry folks but this is theft – and it is like speeding. Too may people whinge when they get caught speeding, but are too damn impatient to get where they are going – despite having known for years about hidden speed cameras.

    You broke the law and you deserve to have to answer for it. I know well paid people illegally downloading – with a ‘we all do it’ attitude. Well, guess what? We don’t all do it and, hopefully, they throw the book at those who have been. It is theft – pure and simple.

    And, it is one thing for lawyers to act pro bono, but I don’t see why an isp should expect all users – innocent and guilty – to support the guilty.

    If iinet and or westnet insist on backing the thieves, then I will look for an isp with ethics.

  39. David says:

    Well done iiNet.

  40. Kim says:

    A huge thank you to iinet for standing up for customers. I’ve never known a company to do this. Have been one of your customers for about 8 years now and have NO intention of ever changing ISP. I really appreciate the clear explanations iinet has made available on this very thorny issue too. Keep up the great work. I recommend iinet to everyone I talk to about ISP’s/the internet.

  41. Donna says:

    How many people had watched Dallas Buyers Club prior to this court case and how many have watched/downloaded (legally of course) it since. Not that I agreed with these tactics but I think Voltage may have already recouped their money with all the free publicity.

  42. Adrian says:

    I moved over to iiNet from T*G 2 years ago because I was so impressed with their customer service team when having a chat. Havent been disappointed since and well worth the extra $15 I pay per month. On ya guys

  43. Dave says:

    @Angela, regarding your comments about why an isp should expect all users to support the guilty, you could say the same thing about the entire country. Why do I have to pay taxes to fund the police system? The police are out on the street regardless of whether a crime is being committed or not and I’m paying for this regardless of whether a conviction is made.

    And for the matter of speeding, have you considered why people speed? Could it be frustration with poorly trained drivers, poor road infrastructure rather than assuming that every one that speeds is a hoon. Oh and dont forget the speed cameras are a huge revenue raiser for the government despite claiming its about community safety. If it were about safety, people would be required to be trained to drive by a credible trainer, would require periodic testing or other forms of intervention to ensure drivers are capable, there isnt even an age limit or test for the elderly, you could be 100 yrs old without enough strength to press the brake in an emergency.

    GO IINET, YOU ROCK!!

  44. Dennis Clark says:

    I don’t download crap like that anyway but how dare any court give permission for my personal details be handed over to anyone. ISP’s should not have to hand over personal info and in my opinion the makers aren’t missing out on anything because those downloading would not watch otherwise so the makers still get nothing. Bit like all the people sitting on their balconies watching the cricket or football on the oval next door, they are getting content without paying so is that not the same? If its there for free its only human to take.

  45. Maya Michel says:

    I am impressed that iinet has taken the concerns of its users to this degree. I appreciate the updates and follow this lawsuit closely. I am a student and a tutor who has allowed a number of people access to my router, I do not closely monitor them and have no idea whether this movie has been downloaded or not.

    Thank you for keeping our concerns in your aim. You rock.

  46. Jim Steps says:

    @Angela Copyright infringement is not theft. Please see legal definitions of Copyright infringement before sprouting incorrect facts. It is also nothing like speeding. I see the point you are trying to make. Although, the implications for copyright law have far wider reaching impacts on society, compared to speeding.

    Would you consider it ‘stealing’ if you accessed a certain type of generic medication overseas (that has infringed on copyright) due to the cost of name brand drugs made locally, where companies can sometimes charge upwards of $30,000 for a single treatment? The generic treatment is usually a few hundred dollars in comparison. It a copyright issue, same as the DBC case, and it’s what the theme of the movie was all about. How ironic.

    Furthermore; Voltage Pictures has said that their actions in the DBC case were to, quote “..protect their business model…” Yet the production company responsible for the movie series Godzilla, has just launched legal action against Voltage Pictures for allegedly infringing on copyright whilst marketing for their upcoming monster movie. Again, how ironic.

  47. Dan says:

    Someone’s gotta finance those Oscar voting campaigns I suppose.

  48. Pedro Bennetton says:

    Well it seems far easier to pick on a million Aussies that have been bled dry by discriminatory geo-pricing than tackle the real problem.
    Price discrimination is illegal under US law, which just happens to be the home base for most of these movie studios???
    Some of these companies pay little or no tax in Australia. Apple for instance paid a measly $80 million tax on $6 billion income after they shifted profits overseas.

    Seems this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black as they break rules to maximise profits and then bleat like stuck lambs when the victims refuse to be abused.

    Global equality in pricing is the only way to fix the problem.

  49. Anonymous says:

    So people will get fined. Every other iinet customer and 100’s and thousands of others involved will be worried and wondering if someone’s used there internet. I doubt there was anything else iinet could have done to help customers seeing as the Australian courts issued the order. As a production company making movies you would think that annoying 100’s of thousands of Australian people would we the worst business they could do for future releases under there title.

  50. Martin says:

    @angela,last time I checked you can kill someone from speeding, I am not sure of your comparison to downloading. I hope you have never recorded a TV show, song off the radio or burnt a cd from a friend. All copyright infringements.

    For as long as I can remember these companies have been charging too much for us to go to the movies etc and we get it far later than the rest of the world. I can’t use netflix because my internet speed is too slow.

    Voltage is also being charged with copyright infringement and are not going after the unemployed, military, disabled etc.

    The whole thing is complete crap. I now have foxtel. It only costs $100 per month plus my internet with iinet which is around $70. To get all the good shows you would need foxtel, netflix, Stan etc.
    Crap

  51. Saeed says:

    Well, this is what happens when a faceless company such as TPG buys iiNet.

    This is all about money.

  52. Jake says:

    This is a disgusting and monumental abuse of the legal system.

    Voltage are a revolting company and should be banned for life for wasting the courts time.

    Heavy handed dirty sly tactics to scare people into paying up.

    Voltage are nothing but a modern day version of Dick Turpin

  53. EvilGenius says:

    If you receive a call from these scam artists, say nothing at all. If though you do choose to speak with them and they ask for you by name then say that you are not there but instead you are a friend who is looking after the property and are uncertain as to when the person [you] are likely to return.
    In addition, any letter coming from DBC should be immediately returned to sender, not at this address. Keep doing that with every one they send you. Do not engage with them in any way at all unless you have your own counsel present. Sign nothing and admit nothing to them as if you do then you have effectively pleaded guilty and they will come after you at a later date. Encrypt your hard-drives and update your passwords on all your systems that are connected the the internet as well.

  54. Mike Gale says:

    I would like to suggest that iiNET start a page listing other products of these Voltage guys. It will give consumers an idea of how to support or not support these guys.

    Others involved in the suit could also be listed in a similar way.

  55. James says:

    Where does the time period of 2 April 2014 to 27 May 2014 come from?

    Great work iiNet!

  56. Chris says:

    Where does the time period of 2 April 2014 to 27 May 2014 come from?

    Great work iiNet!

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