Earlier this year the company behind the movie Dallas Buyers Club was granted permission to obtain the personal details of 4,726 Australia-based BitTorrent users alleged to have shared the movie online without permission.
However, DBC’s reputation for so-called “speculative invoicing” had traveled quickly, leading Justice Nye Perram to express concerns over the company’s plans for Australia. And after learning that DBC wanted to interrogate alleged infringers with the aim of extracting large payments from them, the Judge began narrowing the company’s options.
Justice Perram 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 no more. On top, he ordered the film outfit to pay a AUS$600,000 bond before any subscriber information could be released.
In response, DBC tried a new direction. It asked for the personal details of 10% of the original 4,726 subscribers as a test run of sorts. In return, it asked for the bond to be reduced from AUS$600,000 to AUS$60,000.
Previously Justice Perram had rejected the company’s punitive compensation formula, ruling that DBC could only ask for the cost of the movie (perhaps AUS$20) and the costs it had incurred obtaining their identities from ISPs.
But today DBC were back in court and trying once again to convince the Judge to let them continue pursuing alleged pirates. Presenting a new formula, DBC said it would stop looking at each case individually on its merits and instead present the same settlement offer to all.
Dropping its controversial plan to formulate damages based partly on how many copies of OTHER copyrighted works had been downloaded by each alleged infringer, DBC hung on to its demands that each account holder should pay the cost of the movie. In addition DBC said it would demand a rental charge, a license fee for illegally distributing its copyright work, plus a payment towards its costs.
ITNews reports that DBC’s license calculations were based on a case in which a single unlicensed reprint of a stock photo resulted in a $12,500 damages award. DBC said that its claim was “modest by comparison”.
However, Justice Perram disagreed, describing a figure already presented by DBC in a confidential submission as “not modest”. Furthermore, since DBC had not provided evidence of its licensing arrangements, the Judge could not come to a conclusion on what a reasonable amount might be.
As a result DBC asked for an adjournment so that it could gather and present more evidence, but Justice Perram flat-out refused. Nevertheless, DBC did appear to make some ground today.
Last month the company said it intended to fight for additional damages, despite the Judge indicating that he did not wish to revisit the issue. Today, Justice Perram reluctantly admitted that he may have “misconstrued” the earlier additional damages claim.
“I’ve written four judgments about this case, and I must say, the love is gone … why must I keep deciding this case over and over again?” he said.
All eyes now turn to next week when Perram will decide whether DBC will be allowed to access the details of 10% of the original 4,726 subscribers and if the company will be given permission to appeal the earlier decision to limit claims for damages.
It’s not over yet but DBC still has its eyes glued to the big prize – thousands of dollars in settlements from thousands of Aussie Internet subscribers. And, if they’re successful, more of the same in future.