Services & Software

​How Dallas Buyers Club is busting iiNet pirates

Court documents have uncovered how Dallas Buyers Club tracked iiNet customers pirating the film using a system known as MaverickEye, also revealing that the IP addresses of torrent "leechers" were not recorded.

Dallas Buyers Club. Focus Features

Court documents in the case between iiNet and Dallas Buyers Club LLC have revealed the extent that the rights holders were willing to go to protect the film's copyright, outlining the system it used to detect pirates.

A restricted Federal Court affidavit, obtained by CNET, reveals the system used by German company MaverickEye to detect torrent users pirating the film. According to MaverickEye's witness, the company was able to make accurate records of iiNet customers in Australia who had: "made the film available online to other persons; electronically transmitted the film to other persons; and made copies of the whole or a substantial part of the film".

According to the affidavit, signed by expert witness Daniel Macek from MaverickEye, the company monitored traffic on P2P networks during the period of April 2 to May 27, 2014. Maverick obtained IP addresses of infringing customers as well as the ISP, region, city and time stamps for the activity.

However, Macek says, "in order to take further steps, including the commencement of proceedings in respect of the alleged infringements" the company needs iiNet and the other ISP defendants to match these IP addresses to individual users. This is the information Dallas Buyers Club is seeking in the Federal Court.

In a sign that TPG may have previously been approached by Dallas Buyers Club to pursue its customers for piracy, Macek includes an example of IP information obtained by the company's system, listing the IP address, ISP and region for one infringing user, noting that the IP was assigned by TPG.

The affidavit also includes printed references to TPG Internet as a respondent which have been ruled out and written over by hand with "iiNet Limited".

To support the accuracy of its 'MaverikMonitor' piracy detection system, MaverickEye has included an expert report from Dr. Simone Richter, a German-based IT professional who has provided expert witness testimonial on IT matters in Germany since 2003.

According to Richter's report, Maverick's system enters a BitTorrent swarm and "mimics a user willing to act as a source of data but no actual transfer takes place". Once it has detected a potential file seeder, "the connection with [that] source is terminated after the system receives a sub-piece of the copyrighted work from the source".

This piece of data, which may only be a short section of the film, is compared to Maverick's "control" copy to verify whether or not it matches the file Dallas Buyers Club is claiming has been infringed.

Importantly, Maverick stipulates that it does not target "leechers".

In P2P networks, file sharing occurs between users who have a copy (or part thereof) of a file, known as the "seeder", and the user that is looking to download that file, known as the "client". In most cases, downloaded P2P software will be configured so that users are set up to automatically share their downloaded files. However it is possible to download without sharing (Maverick argues this can result in longer wait times for clients) and these users are often referred to as "leechers".

MaverickEye specifically stipulates that it does not record the IP addresses of these users.

"The system does not log users known as 'leechers'," Richter's report reads. "The system only enters into transactions with those users who engage in the distribution of data. In other words, the users logged by the system have not only made available the data, but also engaged in an actual transaction with the system and has been recorded distributing a piece of the data".

Macek is set to appear for the full Federal Court hearing in February 2015 to provide further details on MaverickEye, the company's IP detection system and how iiNet customers were tracked.