Dallas Buyers Club piracy letters won't be sent for months

The law firm representing Dallas Buyers Club LLC has indicated it could be two months before some 4,700 Australians begin receiving letters over allegedly illicitly downloading the film of the same name.
Written by Josh Taylor, Senior Journalist on

It could be two months before Australians begin receiving letters in the mail over allegedly illicitly downloading a copy of Dallas Buyers Club, the firm representing Voltage Pictures in court has confirmed.

Voltage will gain access to the names and postal addresses of 4,726 users with iiNet and six other ISPs who the company alleges downloaded the film over peer-to-peer services between April and May last year, but the court first needs to approve the drafting of letters to be sent to account holders, and Voltage will need to make a security payment to the ISPs in order to cover the costs for ISPs to retrieve the details of their customers.

In the Federal Court on Thursday, Voltage counsel Ian Pike revealed that the company had drafted two letters: one for direct infringers, and one for businesses with Wi-Fi who will be sent education notices.

The ISPs have made some suggestions for changing the drafting of the letter, and Justice Nye Perram has said he will make a decision on the final draft letters over the next few weeks.

Speaking on Triple J's Hack program on Thursday, Nathan Mattock, partner for Marque law firm, representing Voltage, said that the debate over the drafting of the letters would mean it could be two months before letters are sent to account holders.

"The court still has to consider the form of the letter to be sent out to the account holders. Realistically it will be probably be a month or two months before we get the opportunity to send out letters on behalf of our clients," he said.

Mattock told ZDNet on Friday that the court only has oversight for the initial letter sent to customers. This means that subsequent letters where the company makes an offer for a cash settlement to avoid a court hearing would not be seen by the court before being sent to customers.

"The court will only have oversight in respect of the initial letter to be sent to account holders. Our clients' will be required to assess any settlement on a case by case basis and so any settlement may change for each infringer," he said.

The company has previously rejected suggestions from iiNet that settlement offers could be as low as AU$10.

Mattock declined to reveal the contents of the draft letter, stating it is confidential, but could be released by the Federal Court.

Mattock confirmed that other ISPs would now be targeted for their customers' alleged infringement of the film, and denied that iiNet was targeted over Telstra and Optus because it had fewer resources to fight against the case.

"We engaged with all the ISPs. iiNet was chosen along with six others... obviously we can't take everyone on at one time," he said.

"We did choose one of the largest three in Australia, and they did put in a hard fought battle."

Mattock said he hoped that the other ISPs wouldn't put up such a fight in future cases.

"Certainly we hope it is not as hard fought as the last set of proceedings, and this does act as a precedent in respect of the other ISPs as well.The court gave quite a strong judgment in this matter, which we hope will put to bed this aspect of the battle," he said.

Perram has expressed concern that because Voltage is outside the Australian jurisdiction, the firm could send whatever letters it wants to account holders and the court would not be able to stop it.

Voltage has argued it could harm future cases against other ISPs, but Perram is seeking an undertaking. Voltage is also fighting against the ISPs' demand for AU$108,000 in securities to retrieve customer details, arguing it would lead to much more expensive cases in the future.

Mattock on Thursday said he was "unaware" that Voltage was facing a lawsuit in the US over the company's own alleged act of copyright infringement in the use of the Toho classic monster film character Godzilla.


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