The Pirate Party welcomes the latest development in the Dallas Buyers Club (“DBC”) case. Justice Nye Perram’s ruling protects Australians from speculative invoicing, a practice widespread in the US and other parts of the world in which copyright holders effectively extort legal settlements from those they accuse of copyright infringment. Furthermore, DBC was ordered to pay a bond of $600,000 to access contact details of alleged infringers to ensure they abide by restrictions his Honour may order over the content of communications between the rights-holders and the accused unauthorised file-sharers.
“We are pleased to see the Federal Court taking a keen interest in ensuring customers’ details are not used for shakedowns through speculative invoicing,” said Simon Frew, President of the Pirate Party. “We have been concerned that the DBC case would open the floodgates for a burgeoning new industry of copyright trolling in Australia.”
The judgement is a positive step for consumers because it limits the potential scope of damages. The company has not provided a legitimate way for damages to be calculated and Justice Perram has instructed the damages only be calculated in the context of someone viewing the movie, instead of calculating the cost of buying a commercial license to distribute. This ruling accords with the Pirate Party’s position on the issue, as well those of consumer and digital rights groups such as Electronic Frontiers Australia, who make the point that the movie retails for almost nothing compared to what might be sought as damages.
“We are pleased to see the aggressive demands and tactics of Dallas Buyers Club will not be accepted by Australian courts without strict scrutiny. One of the most outlandish claims was that the accused downloaders could be charged for the cost of a film distribution licence, a claim the Judge dismissed as ‘so surreal as not to be taken seriously'. They are clearly going to extreme lengths to fleece as much money from file-sharers as they think they can get away with,” Mr Frew continued.
The judgement is not all good news for consumers. It still allows the release of account holder information to DBC as an “alleged infringer,” even though that person may never have downloaded the movie. It also indicates that the Federal Court does not need to see correspondance between DBC and alleged unauthorised file-sharers and the court has yet to see exactly how the damages claimed will be calculated, though this is conditional upon DBC only seeking certain types of damage. The disclosure of account holder information to overseas-based rights-holders brings serious privacy risks as to where this information may end up and could lead to personal information being accessed by undisclosed third parties in the future.
“Even if Internet connections involved in copyright infringement can be accurately identified, it’s still unclear who in those households may have been responsible,” said Adien Treleaven, Pirate Party Councillor. “Identifying the offending Internet user in a household is not an easy task. Innocent people, who are not involved in unauthorised file-sharing, should not suffer the same consequences as those who are, merely because they share an Internet connection. Indeed, there have been cases thrown out in other countries due to an IP address being insufficient evidence to connect an individual with a torrented file.”