Back in 2012, the Australian High Court ruled that ISP iiNet was not responsible for the copyright infringements of its customers. Stymied by that ruling, many Australian file-sharers breathed a sigh of relief, as Antipodean users are usually amongst the last to get content, forgotten in the long-tail of media distribution.
Conversely, it also meant that they were one of the last English-speaking (and English common-law) countries to see the appearance of so-called ‘Speculative Invoicing’, more commonly known as copyright trolling. However, “Down Under” couldn’t escape forever, and eventually the trolls washed up on the shore, in the shape of mega-troll “Dallas Buyers Club” (DBC).
The model should be familiar to most of our readers. A company (or its representative) joins a BitTorrent swarm, and “observes” a number of peers on the torrent. It then applies for a court order for the ISP to hand over the identities behind all those IP addresses so they can be pressured for cash settlement.
The big question was whether the Australian courts would allow for the discovery of subscriber details but in a decision released just minutes ago the courts said ‘yes’. Letters to be sent out to the 4,726 consumers involved will first have to be approved by the court, a move designed to reduce DBC’s ability to overstate the case and the potential penalties involved.
Following a similar ruling in Canada last February, this is the second time these kinds of restrictions have been placed on Dallas Buyers Club/Voltage Pictures. UK ‘trolls’ are also subjected to the same oversight in their initial letters to consumers but subsequent correspondence flies completely under the radar with no court involvement.
In today’s case the judge also ruled that the privacy of the 4726 accounts should be protected but placed no cap on damages. The precise restrictions and justifications will become clear when the verdict is published later today.
The case comes amid growing regulations, with the Australian Government pushing for a 3-strikes system as well as site-blocking legislation. These two things, combined with today’s ruling, means that VPN use is expected to skyrocket in Australia.