Dallas Buyers Club - perils of downloading content illegally in Australia

27 April 2015
by Dan Brush

In brief - Plaintiffs win court order requiring ISPs to pulge customer details

Plaintiffs allege that thousands of Australian users illegally downloaded the film Dallas Buyers Club and have won a court order requiring several internet service providers (ISPs) to pulge customer details to copyright holders.

Pre-trial order made by Federal Court

Australian Federal Court judge Justice Nye Perram made a pre-trial order requiring several internet service providers (ISPs) in Australia to deliver ISP addresses and relevant customer details to plaintiffs that include movie makers and other copyright holders in a pending case related to illegal downloads of the film Dallas Buyers Club
 

While the ruling does not allow plaintiffs to contact any person identified by an ISP without further permission from the court, the order raises the question of whether ISPs will remain under pressure to help content owners enforce copyright and other legislation. The pre-trial order was not appealed.

Users alleged to have used BitTorrent services to download film

The plaintiffs in this action allege that over 4,700 users in Australia downloaded the film Dallas Buyers Club without a right to do so and breached applicable law.
 

If the plaintiffs are successful in their claims in this matter, persons in Australia who downloaded the content without permission or payment could be faced with demands for payment to the owners of the content.
 

It is alleged that many of the users used BitTorrent services to download the film. The BitTorrent services allow users to share files over the internet in a process of coordinated downloads of many small parts of the content. BitTorrent services work so that no single source is contacted for the download. 

Proposed new Code of Practice puts emphasis on educating consumers

The Communications Alliance, the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia, has submitted a new Code of Practice to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which would introduce a three-strikes approach to combat consumer online content piracy.
 

The proposed Code of Practice, which remains under review, puts an emphasis on educating consumers about the ownership of online content and the prohibitions related to its unauthorised use. 

Warnings to be issued to consumers by their ISP

The Draft Code includes a requirement for ISPs to warn consumers identified by copyright owners that if the consumer is confirmed to have participated in online copyright infringement, the consumer will receive a notice from their ISP, informing them that the allegation has been made, giving them educational material about where to access legal content, and warning them that continuing to infringe could lead to further action.

No further sanctions envisaged by proposed Code of Practice

The current draft does not include further direct sanctions on the consumer by the ISP, including any slowing of ISP provided internet speeds or disconnection from the ISP.