Australian pirates, you are on notice. An landmark court ruling occurred in Australia today in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC, the company behind the Hollywood hit movie from 2013. The award-winning movie stars Matthew McConaughey and is the story of an electrician and rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. The solid story, combined with stellar performance by McConaughey who lost nearly 23 kilograms to play the role, meant Australians wanted to see, and many turned to piracy to get it.
Dallas Buyers Club was first shown in Toronto, Canada at the International Film Festival, then released in the US on the 1st November 2013. It wasn’t until three and a half months later, 13th February 2014 before it reached Australia, so immediately we start to get a picture of why some turned to piracy, it was as much about availability as it was about the desire to see it for free. Not until the 7th of May 2014 did the film reach its final release country, the Philippines, a strong indication of how broken release windows are in a modern world of a global marketplace.
The company has filed hundreds of law suits across the globe and Australia is just the latest. In most instances, they have been defeated, but today, Justice Nye Perram ruled that a discovery order lodged by Dallas Buyers Club LLC should be granted.
“I will order the ISPs to divulge the names and physical addresses of the customers associated in their records with each of the 4,726 IP addresses,” Perram said.
In Australia, they went after six ISPs, iiNet, Internode, Dodo, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks. Strangely Australia’s largest ISP, Telstra and third largest ISP, Optus were not targeted. The case involved the detailing of people associated with more than 4,700 IP addresses. DBC LLC says these IP addresses were used to share the Dallas Buyers Club movie using BitTorrent.
While some Aussie pirates have received warning letters from their ISPs before, this would be a precedent-setting court case that if not appealed, would allow copyright owners to sue IP addresses. So given an IP address is simply a series of numbers, a reverse lookup at the ISP needs to be done, to identify which account had been issued that IP at the date and time the infringement happened.
IP addresses will tell you the street address of the account responsible, but here’s where things get interesting. If you’re a parent who signed up for the Internet and gave your kid a computer, you could be getting a knock on the door. If you’re the tech guy in the share house and connected the internet to share with 3 housemates, you could be getting a knock at the door.
If you weren’t acutely aware of this before, you should be now, the person’s name on the account is responsible for what happens on that account. Copyright infringements from movie studios in the past haven’t simply been a cost of recovery exercise, they want to send a message. Individual copyright breaches can be extrapolated to hundreds, to thousands or in extreme circumstances hundreds of thousands of dollar fines.
The Guardian is doing a great job of covering the case and if you’re interested or concerned, you should read Dallas Buyers Club ruling: iiNet must hand over names of downloaders and Gordie Guy’s great piece Dallas Buyers Club: how Hollywood turns a buck from ‘pirates’.