Piracy warning letters sent to iiNet before film leak

The law firm seeking the details of Australian internet users alleged to have downloaded infringing copies of the film Dallas Buyers Club began sending generic letters to ISPs before the film had even been leaked.

iiNet was receiving warning letters from the firm behind a new copyright infringement court case well before the film at the centre of the case was even released.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC has taken Australian ISP iiNet and several others including Dodo to court , seeking to obtain customer details for IP addresses that were tracked by the organisation on torrents for the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club. All of the ISPs involved in the case are opposed to handing over customer details to the organisation.

In the first directions hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday, Justice Nye Perram heard that as early as May 2013, the firm had been sending out letters to iiNet seeking to obtain this information, but had faced resistance from iiNet and the other ISPs.

However, Dallas Buyers Club was not released until late 2013, and an awards screener for the film did not appear online on sites such as The Pirate Bay until January 2014.

iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby told ZDNet that Marque, the law firm representing Dallas Buyers Club LLC, had begun sending out generic notices without any films named in May 2013.

"We received generic correspondence from Marque in May 2013 — testing us out, if you like — but no movies or even clients were identified until later in 2014," he said.

It was reported in May 2013 that Marque had sent out letters to a number of ISPs asking them to hand over details for customers alleged to have downloaded infringing content over peer-to-peer networks.

One of iiNet's arguments in its successful High Court case against rights holders over copyright infringement was that the company was inundated with notice letters from rights holders over customers alleged to have illicitly downloaded films, TV shows, or music, at around 7,500 notices over a five-month period.

iiNet barrister Richard Lancaster SC said on Monday that given iiNet had been receiving notices since May 2013, there was "no sense of urgency" in pursuing copyright infringers, and iiNet has asked Dallas Buyers Club LLC to provide more detail on the Maverickeye systems used by the company to track down IP addresses on peer-to-peer networks sharing the film.

Dallas Buyers Club's case internationally has tended to focus on users that downloaded the screener leak of the film, rather than the original leaker of the film; however, a new case brought against Google this month by Marvel Studios has taken a different approach, with Marvel seeking to obtain the IP address and account details for a user who leaked the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron on YouTube before its official release.

Perram set the Dallas Buyers Club case down for a full hearing on February 5 and 6 in 2015, however, it is understood that this date could change.