Dallas Buyers Club leechers not targeted in piracy case

Australians who downloaded an infringing copy of Dallas Buyers Club but did not make that copy available on peer-to-peer file-sharing services are not targeted in the latest piracy court case.

The software used to chase Australian torrenters of the film Dallas Buyers Club will log the IP addresses of those who have shared the film online, and not leechers who only downloaded the film.

iiNet and several other ISPs including Dodo are fighting an attempt by Dallas Buyers Club LLC to obtain customer details for IP addresses that were tracked by the organisation on torrents for the film.

iiNet had been receiving letters from the firm involved in the case since mid-2013 , before the release of the Dallas Buyers Club film, and it was revealed that the law firm had used a German company, Maverickeye UG. According to the company's website, the organisation uses "highly sophisticated software" and "robust hardware infrastructure" to obtain data that has "quality, consistency, and relevance" for the legal system.

In other jurisdictions where the firm has obtained customer details, so-called speculative invoices have been sent to customers demanding thousands of dollars in compensation, or risk facing court action from the firm.

On Tuesday, Dallas Buyers Club LLC was ordered to pay the costs to fly out expert witness Daniel Macek to be cross-examined by iiNet counsel over the accuracy of the "MaverikMonitor 1.7" software.

In the expert report compiled by the firm, and released by the Federal Court yesterday, Macek reported that Maverick monitored torrents between April 2, 2014, and May 27, 2014, to detect IP addresses that had "downloaded, uploaded, and/or distributed" Dallas Buyers Club online, and said there were "numerous instances" in which account holders associated with the ISPs listed in the case were detected.

But despite saying that the service could detect people uploading and downloading the film, an additional expert analysis provided by Dr Simone Richter in the report indicates that only those seeding the film online were logged.

"If a client is not sending data, it will be marked as a 'leecher'. The system does not log users known as 'leechers'. A leecher is a user who does not act as a data source. The system only enters into transactions with those users who engage in the distribution of data."

The software does share some non-copyrighted data with those users who it does track, Richter said.

"In the operation of the system, the local BitTorrent client is created in a way which ensures that it never transfers pieces of copyrighted files to other users. Instead, the client in the system mimics a user willing to act as a source of data, but no actual transfer takes place."

The DtecNet software used in the unsuccessful Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) case against iiNet in 2008 also relied on downloading from suspected infringing users, rather than leechers.

The Dallas Buyers Club expert report also said that the copyright owners relied on ISPs operating a "data retention policy".

"This means that the information sought may be deleted after a period of time. It is therefore important for the copyright owners who allege that the data transfer captured by the system contains copyrighted material to obtain disclosure of the names and addresses behind the IP addresses before such deletion occurs.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that the Australian government's mandatory data retention legislation could see stored IP addresses made available to copyright holders through the courts.

Curiously, the case originally listed TPG as the first respondent; however, the telco has been left out of subsequent court action. A spokesperson for TPG said they could not provide information, as they were not across the case.

The full hearing for the case has been set down for late February.

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