Dallas Buyers Club eye-eyes more pirates after victory over iiNet

While Dallas Buyers Club says its case against iiNet sets a precedent, it could be small potatoes compared to future legal action as the rights holders look to nab 'substantially' more internet users infringing their copyright.

The case over "Dallas Buyers Club" could set a precedent for future legal action. Pinnacle Films

The rights holders of "Dallas Buyers Club" are looking to widen the net for legal action and target more pirates, as their long-running legal battle with iiNet is labelled as a precedent that will shape Australia's copyright battles in the future.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC took iiNet and four other internet service providers to court last October in a bid to identify individuals suspected of pirating the film of the same name. In a landmark ruling in April, the defending ISPs were ordered to hand over customer names and email addresses matching the IP addresses, opening the door for DBC to sue individuals for copyright infringement.

The parties returned to the Federal Court today to discuss the issue of "security" for the ISPs' costs -- essentially how much DBC will stump up to cover the cost of ISPs manually matching customers' details to a list of IP addresses in the "preliminary discovery" process.

But while iiNet called for AU$108,000 in security, DBC rejected this figure as "very high" and one that could set a bad precedent for future legal action taken by the rights holders.

Counsel for Dallas Buyers Club LLC, Barrister Ian Pike, today said the case against the ISPs was a matter of a few thousand IP addresses found across torrent swarms over a one-month period in 2014. However, he noted that future hunting could lead to more IP addresses and more pirates being discovered, and that $108,000 was a high bar for ISPs to set in these early stages.

"This is the first 4,000 IP addresses of what could be a reasonably substantial number of IP addresses," he said. "The appropriate work that needs to be done in searching for the IP addresses can be done for substantially less than AU$108,000."

DBC's lawyers also argued that "doing the math," iiNet was setting aside 30 minutes to identify each IP address listed by the rights holders.

After joking that "you can watch the film in almost that much time" and that the court could "burn through $108,000 pretty quickly through having this debate," Justice Perram agreed that iiNet's proposed figure seemed "extravagant" for what appeared to be a "relatively simple" task.

For its part, iiNet said the process "will involve manual labour" and that staff would need to manually identify and match customer details.

"The system isn't built with a red button that punches out the information for the purposes of preliminary discovery," said counsel for iiNet Richard Lancaster.

While costs are still to be decided out of court through written submissions from both parties, Justice Perram agreed that the final result of the legal back-and-forth would set a precedent for piracy battles in Australia in the future.

"One of the impressions one gets of this case is that both sides are pursuing their positions vigorously," he said. "Whatever happens in this case is probably going to shape what happens in future cases."

Dallas Buyers Club intends to provide the ISPs with a "notice to produce" information, returnable within seven days. From then, the rights holders will be in a position to begin contacting each one of the 4,726 account holders identified.

And while formal communications with these account holders is yet to be approved by the court (a process which will once again occur through correspondence), Dallas Buyers Club has indicated it doesn't intend to draft just one letter.

Barrister Ian Pike said his team were working on two letters, largely because his clients felt "it was necessary to distinguish between the more direct infringers" and those account holders identified as public institutions such as libraries or cafes with public Wi-Fi.

"It's sensible to have different letters to cater to what, for us, seemed to be different classes," he said.

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