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Court releases Dallas Buyers Club piracy letter

Despite objections from Voltage Pictures that the release of the draft letter to be sent to alleged infringers might impact future cases, Justice Nye Perram has released the letter and telephone script in full.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

ZDNet has obtained a copy of the draft letter and telephone script Dallas Buyers Club has pledged to the court it will use in contacting 4,726 users who allegedly downloaded infringing copies of the film.

In April, iiNet, Dodo, and four other internet service providers (ISPs) were ordered to hand over the details of account holders associated with 4,726 IP addresses alleged to have downloaded the film, but with a catch: Voltage will need to pay the costs for the ISPs, and the court must see a draft of the letters to be sent out to customers before any details will be handed over.

This was designed to avoid so-called "speculative invoicing", which Voltage has used in the US to demand from downloaders up to $9,000 in compensation, or threaten the payment of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages under court order.

The letter and telephone script were filed in the court, but Dallas Buyers Club sought to keep the letters confidential to "avoid confusion" should the public get an insight into what the letter might ask for.

ZDNet has obtained the letter and the script from the court, and they are published below.

2015.06.18-Exhibit 1 From Hearing

2015.06.18-Exhibit 2 From Hearing

2015.06.18-Exhibit 3 From Hearing


The latter letters appear consistent with leaks to the media late last week. The final affidavit from Voltage Pictures executive Michael Wickstrom contains an early draft of the letter provided to the court in May.

As ZDNet reported last week, the letters demand information on an alleged infringer's wage, whether they are in the military, and their previous use of peer-to-peer file sharing services.

The letter and the script both exclude any actual dollar amount for the settlement of the case. Dallas Buyers Club counsel Ian Pike last week said there would not be a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to fines.

The telephone script itself says that the fine is likely to be more than the cost for purchasing the film because the digital version of the film may have been shared to "hundreds, if not thousands" of people over peer-to-peer services.

The script warns that if the alleged infringer decides not to settle, the damages claim awarded by the court may be higher. This tactic was used in the United States.

The court has yet to approve the letter to be sent out to alleged infringers, and could be altered prior to final approval. Perram indicated he would decide by July 15.

Although Dallas Buyers Club has agreed to send the letter in this form initially, subsequent letters sent by the firm will not have court oversight, giving the firm the ability to increase its demands. The company has said that it plans to chase other alleged infringers in the future, and taking that course of action would likely make it difficult for the court to approve access to customer details in the future.

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