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Dallas Buyers Club foreshadows more piracy suits

Voltage pictures has indicated that its court battle with iiNet and other ISPs over 4,726 alleged downloaders of Dallas Buyers Club is just the start.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Voltage Pictures has argued it shouldn't be forced to fork over AU$108,000 in security to get the details of users infringing on Dallas Buyers Club because it would make future cases more expensive.

In April, Justice Nye Perram ordered iiNet, Dodo, and four other ISPs to hand over the details of account holders associated with 4,726 IP addresses alleged to have downloaded Dallas Buyers Club over peer-to-peer services between April 2, 2014 and May 27, 2014, but with a catch: Voltage would 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 would be handed over.

In the Federal Court on Thursday, Dallas Buyers Club LLC counsel Ian Pike argued that AU$108,000 in securities the ISPs are seeking before they will hand over the customer names and addresses was substantially higher than the company had been ordered to hand over in other cases.

Pike said that most systems would be automated, but the ISPs' costs claim would mean it would amount to a full-time employee spending around 30 minutes per IP address.

"You could watch the film in that time," Perram joked.

Pike said that if Voltage was to hand over AU$108,000 in this case it would likely result in future cases brought against more Australian customers costing Voltage even more money.

"It is our contention, is that the sum that would be appropriate is much less than $108,000," he said.

"Having had a look at the schedule, it does look pretty extravagant to what the uninformed mind such as mine would have thought was a fairly automated task," Perram said.

iiNet counsel Richard Lancaster said, however, that the ISPs' systems are not designed just to comply with court requests.

"These systems are not build to answer preliminary discovery processes. There are a number of interlocking systems so it necessarily requires manual intervention," he said.

"The system isn't built with a red button that punches out information necessary for preliminary discovery."

Pike also revealed that Dallas Buyers Club has drafted two letters to send out to alleged infringers: one for direct infringers, and an "education" letter to be sent to cafes and other businesses where the Wi-Fi may have been used to download the film.

The ISPs have seen the letters and have suggested a number of changes.

Perram said he would accept submissions on changes and make a decision on the draft letters "on the papers" without requiring a further hearing.

There is also concern that once Voltage Pictures gets a hold of customer details, it will send a different letter to the one ordered by the court. Perram said that because the company is based outside of Australia, there would be little recourse if Voltage decided to go against the court order and send a more threatening letter.

Pike said "the rather large stick" would be it would damage Voltage's standing in future cases.

"I'm not sure that's much of a stick, frankly," Perram replied.

"I had something more material in mind. I'm open to how that is done."

The case will return to court on June 18 where Perram will decide on the issues of security and an undertaking on Voltage to comply with the form of the letters to be sent to customers.

"You might leave [Voltage Pictures' VP Michael] Wickstrom here, and he can be the security," Perram joked.

Earlier this week, iiNet said it was looking to work with a legal firm to offer pro-bono services to customers that receive letters from Voltages.

Labor to back piracy filtering

It comes as Labor looks set to back the government on legislation that will see piracy sites like Kickass Torrents blocked for Australian users.

Fairfax Media reported on Thursday that although Labor leader Bill Shorten has said the party will await the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation, the party will support the legislation with amendments.

In a press conference on Thursday, Shorten hinted that Labor would back the Bill, with amendments.

"Labor will get the balance right because we're in touch with what people actually want and we also respect the arguments against piracy and we are determined to avoid piracy as well," he said.

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