Australia's Dallas Buyers Club case

Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey.
Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

In December 2015, the Australian Federal Court threw out the Dallas Buyers Club rights holders' case against Australians who had allegedly watched the movie illegally.

The landmark judgment effectively killed "speculative invoicing", where people receive demands for large payments with the threat of being sued - a common practice in the United States and Britain .

Voltage Pictures, the Hollywood studio behind the movie in question, had sought identification, contact information and damages from more than 4,700 individuals who had allegedly pirated the 2013 film starring Matthew McConaughey.

Voltage's subsidiary DBC LLC initiated court proceedings against Australian Internet service providers (ISPs) iiNet, Internode, Dodo, Amnet and Adam Internet in November 2014 to compel them to release their subscriber details.

In April 2015, the Australian Federal Court ordered DBC to show the demand letter to be sent to the downloaders.

After inspection, the court said it would order the ISPs to hand over subscriber details on the condition that DBC asks for only the cost of buying the film and a share in the court costs in getting the customer details.

DBC had wanted more, including extra damages and a licence fee for each person found to have also uploaded the film.

In December 2015, the Federal Court decided that DBC's demands in the letters it was intending to send to alleged pirates were "wholly unrealistic", and dismissed the proceedings.

Irene Tham

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2017, with the headline 'Australia's Dallas Buyers Club case'. Print Edition | Subscribe