Back in April the company behind the movie Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) won the right to obtain the personal details of 4,726 individuals said to have downloaded and shared the hit movie in Australia.
As six Australian ISPs – iiNet, Internode, Dodo, Amnet, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks – prepared to hand over the information to DBC, Justice Nye Perram expressed concern over the conduct of the movie company in the United States.
So, to ensure that so-called ‘speculative invoicing’ didn’t come to Oz, the judge asked DBC to provide details on how it would be approaching alleged infringers before he’d order the release of their personal details.
In June it was revealed that DBC wanted to interrogate alleged infringers using an aggressive telephone script backed up by a settlement letter which wrongfully implied that guilt of copyright infringement had already been established.
In a ruling handed down two months later, Justice Perram expressed real concern at the proposals of DBC and the company’s intentions to extract potentially large ‘fines’ and damages from alleged infringers.
Much to the company’s disappointment he told DBC that it could claim for the price of the film and a proportion of the amount spent on tracking down an alleged infringer, but that’s it. And, to ensure that DBC didn’t go against his wishes, he ordered the film outfit to pay a AUS$600,000 bond before any subscriber information is released.
In September, DBC’s lawfirm in Australia said the company wouldn’t appeal the decision, but indicated that there might be another way to get the process moving again.
“We think there may be another way of achieving the outcome [we want] without having to go through an appeal,” said Michael Bradley of Marque Lawyers.
It’s taken more than a month but DBC’s latest ploy has now been made public. The movie outfit believes that if it can convince Justice Perram that his fears over the possible conduct of the company are misplaced, things may be able to move forward.
So, as a confidence-building measure, it’s believed that DBC will ask the court to release a limited number of alleged infringers’ identities so that the judge can see for himself that the company can conduct itself properly.
According to ITNews, DBC will request the personal details of 10% of the original 4,726 subscribers in order to conduct a test-run of sorts. To reflect the change in numbers, DBC will ask for the bond to be dropped from AUS$600,000 to AUS$60,000.
However, it’s understood that DBC still wants to use the aggressive letter and telephone script revealed to the court earlier this year, which included demands for alleged infringers to reveal how much they earn.
How any of this can positively effect the judge’s current position that DBC can only claim for the cost of the movie plus damages is unclear. When approached for clarification DBC lawfirm Marque Lawyers refused to comment.
While it would be unwise to try and second-guess DBC, history shows us that the company is in the lawsuit business not only as a way of reducing piracy, but also as a means of making money. It’s certainly possible that DBC is scrambling to cover the already sizable costs it has incurred Down Under, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that it still has its eyes on a much bigger prize.
The company has already shown how aggressive it can be in the United States (such as demanding two-hour depositions of alleged infringers), so there’s absolutely no reason to think that it will go willingly light on Australians – unless it’s forced to by the court.
The good news for Australians is that Justice Perram – unlike most other judges in other jurisdictions – really seems to understand how ‘trolls’ like DBC operate. A directions hearing will take place on November 2, let’s see what he has in store.