The company behind the movie Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) is known not only for making movies, but also by its ancillary business of chasing down alleged Internet pirates in order to force a cash settlement from them.
In several countries the company has been collecting hundreds to thousands of dollars from each of their ‘Joe Public’ targets but its efforts to do so in Australia have been beset with problems.
Through its legal representatives Dallas Buyers Club have now admitted that their battle to obtain the identities of more than 4,700 Aussie Internet subscribers is over.
“It’s certainly a disappointing outcome for [Dallas Buyers Club]. It doesn’t do anything to mitigate the infringement that’s going on – it’s not a particularly satisfactory outcome from that point of view,” Bradley said.
But for those familiar with these cases, mitigating infringement is not the primary aim of DBC.
The company wanted to extract settlements from 4,726 Internet account holders but due to its activities elsewhere, Justice Perram was suspicious that the movie outfit would engage in so-called “speculative invoicing”.
To stop that from happening the Judge ordered the payment of a huge AUS$600,000 bond but the company decided not to pay. Ultimately, Dallas Buyers Club failed to convince the court that it would restrain its activities and keep promises not to demand high settlements from Internet account holders.
While the development is a huge blow to DBC and a significant win for Internet subscribers in Australia, it doesn’t necessarily restrain other companies from attempting to sue alleged pirates in the future.
“That might happen. But if the circumstances and the context of that are close to this one, then you’d expect the same outcome,” Bradley said.
Another element that significantly hampered DBC was the fact that it was based overseas, hence the large bond requirement set by the court. Bradley told iTNews that Australia-based rightsholders might face fewer obstacles.
“I suppose if a distributor who was local wanted to have a try, then they presumably wouldn’t face the same difficulty with security. You might get a different outcome,” he added.
Bradley also suggests that if rightsholders went after individual infringers one at a time then there probably wouldn’t be so much scrutiny by the courts. But of course, DBC is in the business of getting large settlements from large numbers of people, so that approach probably wouldn’t make much sense from a commercial standpoint.
And make no mistake. This was a purely commercial exercise and when the sums didn’t add up, DBC decided to throw in the towel. Whether they will continue their efforts elsewhere will remain to be seen but new territories have the potential to cause new problems, so sticking to what they know could be the most likely course of action.