Lawfirm Chasing Aussie ‘Pirates’ Discredited IP Address Evidence

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If the movie's owners have their way, alleged downloaders of Dallas Buyers Club in Australia could soon face allegations of piracy and demands for hard cash. However, it's worth reminding potential targets that not even Dallas Buyers Club's chosen lawfirm believe that the evidence relied on in the case is up to much.

There are many explanations for the existence of online piracy, from content not being made available quickly enough to it being sold at ripoff prices. Unfortunately for Australians, over the years most of these complaints have had some basis in fact.

The country is currently grappling with its piracy issues and while there’s hardly a consensus of opinion right now, most of the region’s rightsholders feel that suing the general public isn’t the way to go. It’s painful for everyone involved and doesn’t solve the problem.

That said, US-based Dallas Buyers Club LLC are not of the same opinion. They care about money and to that end they’re now attempting to obtain the identities of iiNet users for the purpose of extracting cash settlements from them.

Yesterday additional information on the case became available. An Optus spokeswoman told SMH that it had been contacted by Dallas Buyers Club about handing over subscriber data but its legal representatives had backed off when it was denied. The movie outfit didn’t even try with Telstra – but why?

So-called copyright trolls like the easiest possible fight and through iiNet they know their adversaries just that little bit better. According to Anny Slater of Slaters Intellectual Property Lawyers, documents revealed in the ISP’s earlier fight with Village Roadshow show that Telstra could well be a more difficult target for discovery.

The business model employed by plaintiffs such as Dallas Buyer’s Club LLC (DBCLLC) requires a minimum of ‘difficult’ since difficulties increase costs and decrease profits. To that end, part of the job of keeping things straightforward will fall to DBCLLC’s lawfirm, Sydney-based Marque Lawyers.

Unfortunately for DBCLLC, Marque Lawyers have already shot themselves in the foot when it comes to convincing DBCLLC’s “pirate” targets to “pay up or else.”

In 2012, Marque published a paper titled “It wasn’t me, it was my flatmate! – a defense to copyright infringement?” which detailed the company’s stance on file-sharing accusations. The publication provided a short summary of cases in the US where porn companies were aiming to find out the identities of people who had downloaded their films, just as Dallas Buyers Club – Marque’s clients – are doing now.

“To find out the actual identities of the users, the [porn companies] asked the Court to force the ISPs to reveal the names and addresses of each of the subscribers to which the IP addresses related. The users went on the attack and won,” Marque explained.

And here’s the line all potential targets of Dallas Buyers Club and Marque Lawyers should be aware of – from the lawfirm’s own collective mouth.

“The judge, rightly in our view, agreed with the users that just because an IP address is in one person’s name, it does not mean that that person was the one who illegally downloaded the porn.

As the judge said, an IP address does not necessarily identify a person and so you can’t be sure that the person who pays for a service has necessarily infringed copyright.

This decision makes a lot of sense to us. If it holds up, copyright
owners will need to be a whole lot more savvy about how they identify and pursue copyright infringers and, perhaps, we’ve seen the end of the mass ‘John Doe’ litigation.”

So there you have it. Marque Lawyers do not have faith in the IP address-based evidence used in mass file-sharing litigation. In fact, they predict that weaknesses in IP address evidence might even signal the end of mass lawsuits.

Sadly they weren’t right in their latter prediction, as their partnership with Dallas Buyers Club reveals. Still, their stance that the evidence is weak remains and will probably come back to bite them.

The document is available for download from Marque’s own server. Any bill payers wrongly accused of piracy by the company in the future may like to refer the lawfirm to its own literature as part of their response.


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