Following prolonged legal action in Australia, the company behind the hit movie Dallas Buyers Club was given permission to chase down individuals said to have downloaded the movie illegally.
An estimated 4,726 internet account holders will be targeted under the legal action and all will come under considerable pressure to pay Voltage Pictures a cash settlement to make a supposed lawsuit go away. Somewhat surprisingly, it has now emerged that the movie company will not only target people via letter, but will also phone account holders to interrogate them in person.
During a Federal Court hearing today it was revealed that Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) have prepared a script which details several questions the company intends to ask its targets. Shockingly they include requests for individuals to reveal how much they earn each year and how many movies they have previously shared using BitTorrent.
ISP iiNet, whose customers are targeted in the action, say that ‘fines’ should be as little as $5, but DBC wants to charge individuals variable amounts based on their income, how damaging their sharing of Dallas Buyers Club was, and how much infringement they have been involved in during the past.
Richard Lancaster SC, representing iiNet, said the script “comes on too strong” and is too broad in scope.
“There’s no justification for getting into a royal commission into end users’ use of the BitTorrent network,” Mr Lancaster said. “It’s about the film.”
Lancaster also complained that the texts of both the script and letter imply that guilt of copyright infringement had already been established when in fact that is not the case.
“The people on the phone aren’t told, ‘We’ve been given your details in respect to a court order,” he said. “They are being told much more firmly, ‘You have infringed and we are going to sue if you don’t settle’.”
How much DBC will demand from alleged infringers is unknown, but it seems inevitable that anything said on the telephone by an account holder will be used against them in a bid to boost the amount. Counsel for DBC, Ian Pike SC, said that it will be up to the individual whether they choose to answer the company’s questions.
While most lawyers will advise anyone getting a call from DBC to tell the company absolutely nothing, the movie company is keen for its targets to be unprepared.
Firstly, DBC is refusing to reveal how it will calculate the amount each person will be asked to pay. However, it is believed the company will seek some kind of licensing fee and/or damages based on how many times the content was shared online, plus relevant court costs. Alternatively, DBC might simply arrive at the highest figure it can reasonably expect to retrieve from the alleged infringer based on what the company is told on the telephone.
However, people being targeted by the company won’t be going into their ‘negotiations’ completely blind. Despite expressing concern that people will read their contents and learn how to reduce the claim against them, on the orders of Judge Nye Perram, DBC will be required to submit the texts of both their telephone script and settlement demand letters to the court.
A final judgment on the case is expected between July 10 and 15.