Yesterday, in a land mark decision a Federal Court judge has ordered several Australian internet service providers, including iiNet, to hand over to a film studio the identities of thousands of account holders whose internet connections were allegedly used to share without authorisation the Dallas Buyers Club movie .ISPS iiNet, ISPs Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks will also be required to hand over customer details.
Note the absense of the bigger ISPS Telstra and Optus – What’s going on with that?
iiNet appears to have tried to fight the good fight on behalf of its customers, unfortunately there intention to protect the privacy of their customers was not enough. About 4700 Australian internet account holders whose service was alledly used to share Dallas Buyers Club on the internet from as early as May 2013 are soon likely to receive legal letters from Dallas Buyers Club LLC’s Australian lawyers threatening legal action.
There is precedent for this where in the US, legal action was threatened against account holders claiming they were liable for damages of up to $US150,000 ($196,656) in court unless settlement fees of up to $US7000 ($9171) were paid. This practice is commonly referred to as “speculative invoicing”.
Luckily this hasn’t been established in Australia yet –Justice Perram ordered that any letters sent to alleged illicit pirates must first be seen by him. He said this would “prevent speculative invoicing”, which under Australian may not be lawful. “Whether speculative invoicing is a lawful practice in Australia is not necessarily an easy matter to assess,” Justice Perram said, The majority of the sharing of this title appears to have come by way of the p2p sharing software known as Bittorrent.
So what happens now? Well to those unlucky enough to be in the 4700 targeted there is no need to panic.
“They can’t detect downloaders so if I downloaded it but never shared it I wouldn’t be concerned about it,” a Former iiNet chief regulatory officer said.
“We don’t really know at this stage. Historically, in the United States the record industry really faltered when it chased online downloaders, there were some egregious misidentification cases where people were wrongly targeted. It may be the same here.”
Proof is the Burdon of the accuser after all. Using a VPN is one way it makes proving one has downloaded copyright content almost impossible and in the past has led to false accusations, which strikes at the legitimacy of some of these law suits. In any case one thing appears clear; the days of anonymous file sharing are coming to an end. So protect yourself. Use a VPN.