In our last article about the "Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) case," the Federal Court held that those who downloaded this movie from the internet, may be confronted with a $10-20 bill, care of the copyright holders of the movie (Voltage Pictures). Please click here to read that article. Now, anyone potentially affected by this case, may be pleased to hear that they have been given a reprieve by a recent Federal Court decision.

The first "Dallas Buyers Club case"

In April 2015, Voltage pictures successfully won the right to obtain the details of over 4000 'persons' that illegally downloaded the movie from the internet. Exactly what Voltage Pictures would do with these names, became the focus of the second case.

The second "Dallas Buyers Club Case"

The Court asked Voltage Pictures to advise the Court how it would invoice the persons that illegally downloaded the movie. Voltage Pictures told the Court that, they would be invoicing for an amount that included:

  1. The purchase price of a single legitimate copy of the film;

  2. A fee for sharing the film to other BitTorrent users;

  3. A punishment for admitting to any other downloaded content; and

  4. An amount that would cover the cost of identifying the user associated with the infringing download.

The Court accepted that Voltage Pictures could rightfully ask for the cost of a single copy of the film and an amount which would recover an appropriate proportion of the fee for its legal costs (i.e. points 1 & 4).

However, the Court did not allow the fee for sharing the film with other BitTorrent users or for any person admitting to any other illegally downloaded content (point 2).

Voltage Pictures would still be allowed to send letters requesting payment of an amount, but only if it limited the amounts to a more reasonable amount. The Court said that if DBC wanted to send letters of demand that did not limit the amount recoverable, they would need to provide a $600,000 bond to the Court. The bond requested by the Court was to ultimately protect consumers from, so called ‘speculative invoicing’.

What is Speculative invoicing?

‘Speculative invoicing’ essentially means requesting an uncertain amount based on a premise rather than a dollar sum. In this case, it would allows the copyright owner to settle claims with consumers for a disproportionate amount or an amount that grossly exceeds the harm caused. For persons wrongly accused, they may face the difficult choice between an expensive legal action to clear their name, or to pay the copyright owner to solve the problem.

The case demonstrates the direction the law is heading in Australia regarding illegally downloaded content from the internet, which will attempt to strike a balance between giving effect to the rights of intellectual property right holders and fairness to consumers.

What are the changes to the legislation?

Australia is introducing new copyright laws (under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015), which may make online piracy a little more difficult. The amendments are designed to prevent Australians from accessing overseas websites, like the BitTorrent website, 'The Pirate Bay,' which is commonly known as a source to download content illegally.

The changes mean that copyright owners may have a legal avenue to make an Internet Service Provider (ISP) take reasonable steps to block access to an overseas website. It must be proven to the Court, that the website’s primary purpose is for infringing copyright for this law to apply.

What do the changes mean for you?

Those that have been illegally downloading content from these websites don't need to be concerned that they will suddenly receive an invoice in their mailbox.

The copyright owner will have the right to bring an action in the Federal Court to obtain your details through an ISP and possibly block a website that you may be using to access torrent files. Once that order has been obtained, an ISP would then need to take reasonable steps to filter the website from its customers’ access.

Why do we need this legislation?

It is argued that paying for film and television supports the survival of content creation and, more importantly, the respect for copyright.

The new legislation is a step in the right direction for copyright owners. Without this new legislation, it's believed that continued piracy could ultimately shut down Australia’s film and television drama industry.

Excessive pricing and the availability of content are the main reasons many people download movies and TV shows illegally. However there are now increasing options for Australian’s to legally watch television and movies with subscription services such as Netflix and Presto.

This article contains information of a general nature only and is not specific to your circumstances. This is not legal advice and should not be relied upon without independent legal or financial advice, specific to your circumstances.