iiNet ruling sheds light on speculative invoicing and punitive damages

8 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dallas Buyers Club downloads: M1 passed customer details to law firm on court order.

SINGAPORE — Singtel is the latest and third Internet service provider here to comply with a court’s order to release details of over 100 subscribers who have allegedly downloaded Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club illegally online.

About 4700 Australians who illegally downloaded on the internet over a one-month period in 2014 are likely to be sent letters demanding monetary compensation from the maker of the film. A Federal Court judge yesterday ordered several Australian internet service providers, including iiNet, to hand over the identities of thousands of account holders whose internet connections were allegedly used to share the Hollywood film.

Singtel’s court order came later than the other two major providers M1 and Starhub because the company had engaged external lawyers to defend its right to protect subscribers’ personal data for confidentiality reasons, she explained. After hearing the parties, the Assistant Registrar of the High Court granted an order compelling M1 to disclose the names, NRIC numbers and physical addresses of the affected customers.” “We have received a High Court order to provide details of some customers based on particular IP addresses, and are in the process of complying with this court order,” said Ms Caitlin Fua, Assistant Vice-President of corporate communications at StarHub. In the US, where this type of ruling has also happened, legal action was threatened against account holders, claiming they were liable for damages of up to $US150,000 in court unless settlement fees of up to $US7000 were paid. So it’s not always about availability and access, it’s simply about people wanting something for nothing.” Ms Flekser said with every film that’s pirated, potential future investors are scared away, draining the industry’s lifeblood. “(And) for every film that doesn’t get made that’s not just creative juice being lost – those are real jobs being lost,” she said.

ISPs have 28 days to appeal Federal Court Justice Nye Perram’s decision, but in the event it does go ahead, we’ve asked the experts exactly what to do if you do receive a bill. The fundamental purpose of copyright is to ensure people who take on the enormous financial risk of creation are appropriately rewarded monetarily, she said.

Ms Flekser, who’s worked in the Australian film and television industry for more than 30 years, insists that principle didn’t change with the advent of the internet. And so they just nominated the amount.” “It’s an exercise in encouraging people not to download or share, because the money that they ask for was just a drop in the ocean — it has averaged about $US7000 ($A9100) in the past.” While that amount might not be a ‘drop in the ocean’ to most people, it’s important to note that letters sent to infringers overseas were not approved by a court before being sent, which will have to happen in Australia.

She said while many people will continue to torrent, the shift to a series of warning letters, the threat of consequences for stealing content and blocking pirate websites is making it harder. “This will hopefully signal to content thieves and the wider community that this behaviour is not on,” she said. However, other punters felt “stealing” the film was indefensible, and had serious ramifications for the industry. “I stand by the decision for #DallasBuyersClub to seek compensation. Dr Fraser believes anonymity in the online environment has led to “an unhealthy state of affairs” where people believe they can do things that are illegal online, and Australians are big offenders.

Former iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, told Fairfax Media it’s those who seeded the torrent (making it available for others to download) that have been identified. While a letter is likely to ask for financial compensation, don’t be scared into handing over the cash straight away. “If they were to receive a letter then they should take it to a solicitor who would advise them what it says and it’s important that (they speak to) someone who is objective (who) can do that.”

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