Yesterday, following the outcome of a landmark copyright ruling, Australian ISPs including iiNet, Internode, Dodo and Adam were ordered by the Federal Court to disclose information about thousands of customers who allegedly pirated the film Dallas Buyers Club.
As we reported yesterday, 4726 IP addresses were found to have downloaded the film, however, Dallas Buyers Club LLC will have to submit any and all threatening letters to the court for approval before sending them out.
If you’re worried about receiving one of said letters, there are a number of options open to you.
In the wake of the ruling, Fairfax spoke to Steve Dalby, the former chief regulatory officer of iiNet, who explained the implications of the ruling for individuals who find themselves accused of copyright infringement.
First and foremost, he advised concerned parties to seek legal advice. “Remember that the letter is not proof and is only an allegation,” Dalby said. “They can’t detect downloaders, so if I downloaded it but never shared it I wouldn’t be concerned about it.”
He also stressed the importance of knowing who is sharing your network, pointing out that, if you have an open or unsecured access point, or have given away your password to friends and acquaintances, you may well claim it wasn’t you.
“Most of the agreements state the account holder is responsible for the use of the account but there’s no formal, legal obligation for customers to secure their WiFi,” he continued.
“They can get to the router but they can’t get down to the individual MAC (media access control) address of the devices but they’re constantly modifying the technology and improving it.”
iiNet have not yet handed over customer details, arguing that that they have a duty to protect the privacy of customers, and that disclosing their details would leave them open to a predatory campaign of speculative invoicing.
Last year, the ISP published a lengthy blog entry on the subject of speculative invoicing, or the practice of sending intimidating letters seeking significant damages for copyright infringement. Such letters often threaten court action, “and point to high monetary penalties if sums are not paid”.
iiNet highlighted several concerns about this practice, specifically, the fact that users might be subject to “intimidation by excessive claims for damages,” especially as a case such as the current one has not yet been tested in Australia.
As for the future implications of the Dallas Buyers Club case, Anny Slater, of Slaters Intellectual Property Lawyers, says that it’s now vital for ISPs to develop an industry-wide code of conduct.
“I suspect that the legislation will alter the landscape completely, she said. “This case might be an isolated event. The fact that this case happened might purely be a timing issue.”
iiNet have 28 days to appeal yesterday’s decision.