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ISPs to forgo appealing Dallas Buyers Club decision

M2 Group has confirmed that it will not appeal a decision by the Australian Federal Court to grant Voltage Pictures access to the details of over 4,000 customer accounts alleged to have illicitly downloaded Dallas Buyers Club.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

Australian internet service providers (ISPs) will not appeal a decision by the Federal Court last week to force the companies to hand over the names and postal addresses of 4,726 customers alleged to have illicitly downloaded the Academy Award-winning film Dallas Buyers Club.

Last week, 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 the film over peer-to-peer services, 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 up to $9,000 in compensation or face having to pay potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages under court order.

The ISPs had 28 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling, but M2, the owner of Dodo, confirmed a Fairfax report that the company had been advised by its counsel against appealing the decision.

"Counsel's opinion is that an appeal would not be successful," the company told ZDNet in a statement.

"We took this action to ensure our customers' privacy was protected, and that they would not be subject to speculative invoicing. Based on the ruling, we are comfortable that the court is mindful of the issues and that the risk is being addressed."

The company said that the decision by Perram should defeat a speculative invoicing model, given the court's oversight for the drafting of the letters.

Voltage Picture's vice president of royalties Michael Wickstrom last week vowed to send letters to alleged infringers, but indicated that the letters may not ask for a financial settlement.

The amount of compensation is likely to be much lower in Australia than in the US, according to Shelston IP partner Mark Vincent.

"I think the realistic expectation is that if you sue someone for infringement for a single download would be to make AU$20, as a studio," he told ZDNet last week.

The court may award additional damages, but Vincent said that courts have historically been reluctant to do so.

"There is some ability for an Australian court to find that additional damages are warranted under Section 115 of the Copyright Act. That section has been used sparingly by the courts, and has only been used for the most flagrant cases of infringement," he said.

"And, even so, they've been pretty modest, in the low tens of thousands."

The ISPs and Voltage are due back in court on April 22.

In Singapore last week, ISPs including M1, Singtel, and StarHub were ordered to disclose customer information to Voltage Pictures over alleged infringement of Dallas Buyers Club.

It has been reported that so far, 77 letters have been sent out to M1 customers, asking for a written offer for damages and costs associated with their alleged infringement.

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