‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club case’ has shaken the internet community by setting a precedent for right’s holders to go after copyright infringers.

What is ‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club case’?

The “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is a movie by Voltage Pictures, which was illegally downloaded by members of the public, through the program Bittorrent. Bittorrent allows people to connect with each other in order to share bits of data. Voltage pictures sought action for alleged copyright infringement against the Australian Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) the persons used to download the movie.

Voltage pictures obtained the IP addresses of these various individuals by using a program called Maverick. Maverick acts like a user of Bittorrent and records the IP addresses, in order to share 'slivers of data' (small bits of data parts that add up to constitute the full file). The Australian Federal Court (AFC) ruled that 'slivers of data' are enough to constitute copyright infringement. The court ordered that the ISPs deliver the identities of some 4,726 of their customers to Voltage Pictures. The court further allowed Voltage Pictures to send letters to those customers demanding payment for downloading the “Dallas Buyer’s Club” movie.

Why is this case significant?

This is the first legal case of its kind, where producers have legally attacked internet users downloading movies, for copyright infringement. The case sets the precedent that producers can freely obtain the identities of users via their IP address (given the right circumstances).

Australia is a nation known for its torrenting ways. We were the leading nation in torrent downloads for the Game of Thrones TV series. Many have cited the lack of movie and TV options as the main motivation for the torrenting craze which may be calmed by the recent introduction of services such as Netflix. Nevertheless, this case undoubtedly will be of interest to the myriad of Australians who still rely on torrents to keep up with the latest entertainment.

‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club case’ may also introduce ‘speculative invoicing’. This practice already exists in the US and UK and is currently a topic of discussion in Australia. Speculative invoicing allows rights holders to send legal letters demanding payment of a set amount for copyright infringement or face going to court. The court has allowed Voltage Pictures to send letters to the infringers requesting payment for downloading “Dallas Buyer’s Club”. However, the court trod carefully in this ruling, stating they do not wish to set precedent for ‘speculative invoicing’ and requested that the judge reviews the letters that Voltage Pictures intends to send out.

The court also ordered that the ISP must front their own legal costs. This means that in future ISP’s may be more reluctant to fight for their customer’s rights.

How does this affect you?

Those who downloaded “Dallas Buyer’s Club” may be fronted with a $10-20 bill (sources vary). It appears that if you are a member of a larger ISP such as Telstra, TPG, or Optus, you may be in the clear as those customers seem to be unaffected. For the moment only those who downloaded this movie are potentially affected. However, the case does set a rather scary precedent for other companies to hold liable those users downloading movies through torrents. So remember, that if you must use torrents, make sure that you are using them legally.


This case has since been overturned. Please click here for an update on this case as at November 2016. 

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.