Dallas Buyers Club Face Court Sanctions Over Piracy “Extortion” Tactics

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The makers of the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club are facing monetary sanctions for the dubious tactics used in their ongoing crackdown on BitTorrent pirates. In California, a local resident is arguing that the filmmakers lack any evidence other than an IP-address, while requesting a monetary penalty of $36,000 for their "extortion" tactics.

dallasThe makers of Dallas Buyers Club have sued thousands of BitTorrent users over the past few years.

Many of these cases end up being settled for an undisclosed amount. This usually happens after the filmmakers obtain the identity of the Internet account holder believed to have pirated the movie.

Not all alleged downloaders are eager to pay up though. In fact, many don’t respond to the settlement letters they receive or claim that someone else must have downloaded the film using their connection.

This is also true for the case Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) filed against California resident Michael Ahmari.

Earlier this year the filmmakers claimed that Ahmari downloaded a pirated copy of the movie after he was linked to a “pirating” IP-address. Dallas Buyers Club’s attorney demanded a settlement of $10,000 and warned that “the price would go up” if he didn’t pay up soon enough.

Ahmari, however, denied the allegations and explained that he lived in an apartment residence at San Diego State University with an open Wi-Fi connection. Nevertheless, the movie studio pursued its claim and increased the settlement demand to $14,000.

He continued to deny any involvement and even agreed to take a polygraph test to prove it, as DBC suggested. However, the filmmakers later retracted this offer and moved for a default judgment instead.

This judgment was set aside earlier this month and now the alleged “pirate” is pushing back in court.

Through his lawyer, Ahmari is now asking for the case to be dismissed due to lack of evidence, as well as an award of attorney fees and monetary sanctions for DBC’s abuse tactics in these and other cases.

“Plaintiff has utilized extortion tactics by progressively demanding more money from defendant on each successive conversation with defense counsel and through emails, based on plaintiff’s costs and attorney fees,” attorney Clay Renick writes.

In his argument (pdf), Renick cites DBC’s own words, as they previously admitted that “Ahmari may not be the actual infringer as he shared a student apartment with other individuals.”

Despite this knowledge, they continued their case against Ahmari.

“Despite the warning from the Court, Plaintiff moved forward to aggressively and maliciously name defendant in a manner that constitutes libel against defendant,” Ahmari’s attorney writes.

As a result of the allegations, the accused pirate had to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees. According to the defense lawyer, however, it is clear that DBC doesn’t have any evidence linking his client to the actual download.

“It is uncontroverted that the sole basis of plaintiff’s lawsuit was that defendant was a subscriber to the IP address of which a movie was supposedly downloaded,” Renick writes.

“Plaintiff seems to believe that conflating a subscriber’s IP address to being the actual infringer should shield him from liability for those libelous statements and unethical actions to extort money from defendant,” the attorney adds.

Based on the lack of evidence, Ahmari is asking the court to dismiss the case. In addition, he is requesting $12,000 in attorney fees and a monetary penalty of $36,000 for the coercive tactics used in this and other cases.


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