Dallas Buyers Club: plan to ask suspected pirates to reveal incomes

Voltage Pictures also proposes asking almost 5,000 Australians accused of illegally downloading film what other movies they have shared online

Almost 5,000 Australians accused of illegally downloading the movie Dallas Buyers Club would be asked to reveal their incomes under a Hollywood producer’s plan to seek compensation for piracy.

Voltage Pictures, which won a federal court order in April forcing six Australian internet service providers to hand over details of 4,726 customers who allegedly downloaded the film, has also proposed asking what other films they have shared online.

Details of Voltage’s proposed approach to suspected pirates in coming months were revealed in a court hearing on Thursday after the film company sought the judge’s approval for a draft letter and phone script, according to reports by ZDnet and CNet.

Richard Lancaster, a barrister for the ISPs including iiNet, criticised the film company for overreach, questioning whether its damage claims would rise against those with higher incomes.

Lancaster also said Voltage’s compensation bid did not amount to “a royal commission into end users of the BitTorrent [file sharing] network” and it had no right to ask for people’s download histories.

“This is a case about Dallas Buyers Club the film,” he said. “There should not be this kind of collection of material over the phone.”

Judge Nye Perram indicated he was wary of giving the film company “a blank cheque” to ratchet up compensation claims on suspected pirates.

Perram has asked the firm to detail its formula for weighing up compensation claims, including a licence fee, legal costs and damages based on how many times the film was shared.

Lancaster also said Voltage in its customer approach wrongly assumed piracy had taken place.

“The people on the phone aren’t told, ‘We’ve been given your details in respect to a court order,’” Lancaster said. “They are being told much more firmly, ‘You have infringed and we are going to sue if you don’t settle.’”

Lancaster said the problem of this approach was “among other things, there is the possibility there isn’t an infringement”. He said any of those approached by Voltage could legally challenge the assumption of piracy on the basis that the software used to detect those sharing the film via BitTorrent was unreliable.

The full contents of the draft letter and telephone script filed in court have not yet been made public.

The barrister for Voltage, Ian Pike, told the court the questions would be used to judge whether customers were facing financial hardship and whether they were serial downloaders.

“We are entitled in the letter to assert in reasonably firm terms why we contend there has been copyright infringement,” he said. “Nothing in the letter oversteps the mark. They are perfectly proper questions. We would be criticised if we didn’t ask them.”

Perram said he would decide the case by 15 July.


Joshua Robertson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Dallas Buyers Club: how Hollywood turns a buck from 'pirates' | Geordie Guy
iiNet has been forced to hand over the details of customers alleged to be pirates, but at least the court didn’t greenlight threatening tactics by copyright holders

Geordie Guy

07, Apr, 2015 @8:23 AM

Article image
Dallas Buyers Club piracy case finally dropped after two-year legal battle
Court rejected call by producers of Oscar-winning drama to be allowed to unmask 4,726 alleged Australian pirates of the movie

Alex Hern

11, Feb, 2016 @11:59 AM

Article image
Dallas Buyers Club piracy case: judge dismisses bid to access private details
US studio attempt to get details of thousands of Australians accused of illegal downloading is terminated over ‘unrealistic’ proposal for claiming payment

Michael Safi

16, Dec, 2015 @8:27 AM

Article image
Dallas Buyers Club piracy case: court to determine level of fines
While ruling says that Australian ISPs must release names of over 4,700 users who shared film, iiNet accuses Voltage Pictures of using discovery letters to force settlements from alleged pirates

Sam Thielman in New York

07, Apr, 2015 @5:03 PM

Article image
Dallas Buyers Club – review

This story of a heterosexual 'good ol' boy' who imports and sells Aids therapies has a barnstorming performance from Matthew McConaughey, writes Peter Bradshaw

Peter Bradshaw

06, Feb, 2014 @3:27 PM

Article image
Oscar predictions 2014: Dallas Buyers Club

Henry Barnes: Continuing our daily series that looks ahead to the key movies of the 2014 awards season. Next up: Matthew McConaughey's weighty performance in Aids drama Dallas Buyers Club

Henry Barnes

15, Aug, 2013 @12:29 PM

Article image
Dallas Buyers Club – review | Mark Kermode
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto deliver Oscar-worthy performances in the unlikely story of a redneck with Aids and a transgender activist, writes Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode

09, Feb, 2014 @10:00 AM

Article image
Online piracy: ISPs ordered to block access to three file-sharing websites
High court tells six UK companies to prevent access to three music and movie file-sharing websites, Kat, H33T and Fenopy. By Lisa O'Carroll

Lisa O'Carroll

28, Feb, 2013 @12:35 PM

Article image
A drug expert on Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club succeeds at showing how hard it is to establish the effectiveness of a new drug, says consultant physician and clinical toxicologist David Wood

Interview by Laura Barnett

23, Feb, 2014 @7:30 PM

Article image
The Dallas Buyers Club: don't buy this history

Alex von Tunzelmann: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are just what the doctor ordered, but this drama's message about sexuality and Aids is all bad medicine

Alex von Tunzelmann

12, Feb, 2014 @4:20 PM