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Dallas Buyers Club not sold on new anti-piracy code

Australia's draft anti-piracy code may have arrived too late for the major copyright case playing out between Dallas Buyers Club and iiNet, with the judge announcing a decision will be handed down in three weeks.

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Pinnacle Films

The publication of an industry code to address copyright infringement may hold no bearing on the case between Dallas Buyers Club LLC and iiNet, with the decision on the case due to be handed down in three weeks.

On the third day of a preliminary discovery hearing, Justice Perram was pointed towards the copyright code, released late last week, by counsel for iiNet who argued that the code showed "where things are at" in the Australian copyright debate.

"It informs the court as to what is currently regarded by numerous industry participants as a reasonable and proportionate response to online copyright infringement," said Richard Lancaster SC.

He also argued that the code highlights what rights holders deem to be a "reasonable and proportionate" response to piracy, and added that, "there are good statutory reasons why ISPs will take the code seriously."

However, lawyers for Dallas Buyers Club argued that the code was limited in scope and contained a number of loopholes meaning it should not apply to the particulars of the case at hand.

"There is nothing to indicate it will be retrospective," said barrister Ian Pike, adding that it would also limited to fixed residential internet customers, meaning it didn't apply to copyright infringement on mobile devices or business networks.

He added that, should the copyright code come into effect, it should not be "a strong factor" that the judge should regard in the Dallas Buyers Club case.

Who owns Dallas Buyers Club?

The question of the copyright code's relevance was not the only matter called into question at today's hearing.

The issue of copyright ownership on the film was once again raised, after an expert witness representing Dallas Buyers Club's parent production company, Voltage Pictures, last week cast doubt over who actually holds the rights to the film.

With the outcome of the case hinging on whether or not Dallas Buyers Club can claim ownership of copyright (and thus the right to seek damages for piracy), Justice Perram said it was "not a big ask" that a movie studio should be required to demonstrate it has the copyright.

"I'm presently flummoxed about who the owner is," Justice Perram said.

Once again highlighting the complex nature of Hollywood accounting and licensing agreements, counsel representing Dallas Buyers Club pointed to a number of documents to prove ownership, including a certificate of copyright, chain of title documentation, royalty documents and a sales agency agreement.

Barrister Ian Pike said the expert witness had been "mistaken" in his testimony last week and that Justice Perram should "rely on the objective documentation rather than the evidence provided" by Voltage Pictures.

According to Pike, Dallas Buyers Club's right to chase copyright infringers was "tolerably clear."

On the matter of obtaining personal information about copyright infringers, Justice Perram suggested one solution was getting the ISP to provide a copy of the customer's most recent bill with billing costs and phone numbers redacted to protect privacy.

Dallas Buyers Club accepted this proposal, noting that it was no longer seeking individual phone numbers and conceding that it would be "perfectly appropriate" for judge to set out "what is illegitimate in respect to personal information."

However, counsel for the rights holders held firm on the importance of accessing iiNet customer information, citing more than 4,900 individual instances of copyright infringement over a period of just 7 weeks and demanding a "remedy" for this piracy.