Australian ISP iiNet Takes A Stand Against Copyright Trolling By Producers Of Dallas Buyers Club

from the good-for-them dept

We’ve written a number of times about the strong, principled stand of Australian ISP iiNet for the rights of its consumers. iiNet was the ISP that was handpicked by Hollywood and the US State Departmenet to be the target of a “test” legal attack, trying to force ISPs to spy on users and become copyright cops. iiNet was targeted because Hollywood felt that the company wasn’t large enough to fight back, but was big enough to get noticed. Hollywood miscalculated on one-half of that equation: iiNet fought back. And it fought back hard. And it won. And then it won again. And then it won again, in a fight that Hollywood is still licking its wounds over (and trying to undermine with new laws). iiNet has also fought back against data retention rules.

And now it’s standing up again — this time against copyright trolling. In particular, against copyright trolling from Voltage Pictures over the film Dallas Buyers Club — which has been used in questionable copyright trolling efforts in the US for a while now. Apparently, the folks behind that effort are dipping their toes in the water in Australia, and iiNet put its foot down, refusing to roll over and hand over information. It’s not — as some people assume — because iiNet supports copyright infringement:

We don?t support or condone copyright infringement. In fact, our contract terms require that our customers must not use our service to commit an offence or infringe another person?s rights ? this includes copyright infringement. We also have a policy that applies to people who infringe the law.

It might seem reasonable for a movie studio to ask us for the identity of those they suspect are infringing their copyright. Yet, this would only make sense if the movie studio intended to use this information fairly, including to allow the alleged infringer their day in court, in order to argue their case.

Rather, it’s because iiNet’s executives aren’t idiots, and they know exactly what’s going on here. It’s not about stopping infringement, it’s about copyright trolling, which iiNet uses the more polite term for: “speculative invoicing.”

Speculative invoicing, as practiced overseas, commonly involves sending intimidating letters of demand to subscribers seeking significant sums for an alleged infringement. These letters often threaten court action and point to high monetary penalties if sums are not paid.

Our concerns with speculative invoicing by Dallas Buyers Club in Australia include:

  • Users might be subject to intimidation by excessive claims for damages, as made by Dallas Buyers Club in other countries.
  • Because allegations of copyright infringement are linked to IP addresses, the alleged infringer could be incorrectly identified if details of the account holder were revealed. For example, the relevant IP address could have originated from a person in a shared household, an individual visiting a household which has open WiFi, or a school, or an Internet cafe.
  • Because Australian courts have not tested these cases, any threat by rights holders, premised on the outcome of a successful copyright infringement action, would be speculative.

iiNet fully admits that it may eventually lose and have to hand over the names, but that it worries that a broad ruling will “open the floodgates” to further copyright trolling in Australia, and that it believes this will lead to Australians “being intimidated to pay exorbitant amounts in an attempt to avoid improbable litigation.” This looks like it should be another iiNet legal case to pay close attention to.

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Comments on “Australian ISP iiNet Takes A Stand Against Copyright Trolling By Producers Of Dallas Buyers Club”

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Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

This is not about copyright enforcement, it’s about enrichment. Plain and simple. Do these guys have an interest in going after those that leaked the movie…no they do not.

The whole model these suits are based on never ever is to go after the source who leaked the movie, it is always about going after those who downloaded a fraction of the movie so tiny it isn’t even fathomable.

They basically collect a brief piece of the movie from an IP address and then that is the basis for their claim.

It’s beyond a joke really, this is nothing but the legal version of blackmail and extortion

Anonymous Coward says:

Full History of Voltage Pictures trolling?

Although it’s hard to imagine iiNet completely winning in court, the ISP could certainly call attention to these putrid trolling operations and the tactics they use, and at least get the judge in the middle of any “settlement” offers to the accused infringers, such as advising them of their rights and toning down the standard distortions and scare tactics people typically receive from these trolls, as well as prohibiting psychological intimidation tactics like creating artificial time pressure or the classic sales tactic of threatening to increase the price if people don’t pay immediately.

Whenever held up to scrutiny in court, these copyright trolls have not exactly had a winning record, such as ACSLaw in the UK and Prenda in the US have demonstrated. Voltage Pictures itself ran into many roadblocks in both the US and Canada while copyright trolling The Hurt Locker, and things kind of fizzled out.

It seems Voltage Pictures learned from its previous mistakes in the Hurt Locker trolling campaign, licked its wounds, and adjusted its legal strategy as it launched another blitzkrieg attack with the Dallas Buyers Club trollfest.

There have been an abundance of news snippets of Voltage’s copyright trolling, but does anyone know of anything that ties the company’s whole legal history together? Perhaps someone with access to legal databases who has followed things through the court system and “connected the dots”? It would certainly be a worthwhile article to read if such were available.

Because unlike the RIAA’s groundbreaking copyright trolling, which was largely (and loudly) self-publicized, the current wave of Bittorrent trolls sweeping the globe appear to be doing it strictly for money rather than deterrence, and therefore tend to keep things on the down-low.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Full History of Voltage Pictures trolling?

Did the original AC write something to suggest that he personally consumes the content? Or is this just another sad case of an corporate bootlicker creating a fictional reality to personally attack someone because they can’t deal with being on the wrong side of the truth in this reality?

It looks like the latter. What a sad existence you must have, if this is what you have to do to have something’s say.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I wonder if a better return policy would help? You know when you buy an album and it only has one good song on it, it would be nice to be able to return for refund, or at least get 7/8 or 9/10 back.
Or how about when you buy a movie and then it not only sucks, but you feel like you just lost two hours of your life that you can never get back. A 100 or 200% refund would go a long way to fighting infringement I am sure.
Or if DRM inconveniences you in any way, you automatically get 10x your money back without returning the product(it may not be there anymore to return). Surely all of this will help reduce infringement

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I wonder if a better return policy would help? You know when you buy an album and it only has one good song on it, it would be nice to be able to return for refund, or at least get 7/8 or 9/10 back.

That’s another thing that makes these “settlements” so shady, the victim must agree never to ask for a refund (full or partial) if a judge in another case ever bursts the troll’s bubble. Like the thousands of people who paid Prenda, Davonport Lyons, or ACS:Law about $5000 before any judge ever shot down any their cases. Prenda turned out to be a 100% pure scam, yet raked in millions of dollars from hapless victims who will likely never get a penny of it back.

Yes, these victims were fools to settle, but one reason they did it so quickly was the threat of the settlement “asking price” doubling if they didn’t pay up fast. The whole “settlement” experience is structured around high-pressure sales tactics, like “strike while the iron is hot.”

Or more properly, like kidnapper ransom demands, which typically the kidnapper demands immediate payment and advises against going to authorities.

TruthHurts says:

Re: Re: Re:

Since you can buy it, open it, rip it – they will never allow returns on CDs/DVDs/Blu-Ray/etc…

I exhausted a stores inventory of one DVD movie about 5 years ago, before proving to them that there was a manufacturer’s defect that didn’t allow the “special edition” to play on 5 of my 5 DVD players @ home, at which point I received a refund.

That left the store with 17 copies of the movie in an unsellable state.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Pretending mass copyright infringement isn’t a thing doesn’t make you look good.

Like Megaupload, where the gov’t is trying to burn the evidence before they even get to trial, at the same time as they’re trying to rob him (civil forfeiture) of all his physical assets prior to the trial even getting started.

Dotcom ain’t beautiful, but people like you seem to be going out of your way to make him look gorgeous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Dotcom ain’t beautiful

Repeated for truth. But sometimes more classic art is better to quote:

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not God’s– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: (to the jackass)

And don’t ask for far more in settlements than you could possibly get at trial.

The press has been talking about “downloaders”, and if they can’t prove that you weren’t a leech, the only get to sue for actual damages in Australia (uploaders can be sued as distributors for far higher damages, and IIRC can be charged statutory damages).

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

Pretending that there’s such a thing as “The free market” doesn’t make you look good.

Entertainment items (content) ought to be as subject to the market as apples and oranges. Our property ought to be our own: if we buy it, we own it.

But copyright maximalists want us to believe their lies: “OWN IT NOW ON DVD.” Actually, you just own the plastic and thin layer of foil of the DVD, the actual content is not yours and this is not explicitly stated.

Infringement is what happens when people want access to the content they’re interested but this is blocked by geographical limitations and artificial release windows, and they’re not willing to accept that. The idea that we should is ridiculous. Hell, I’d even put up with it if I could just pay for something once and do whatever the hell I wanted with it afterwards, but that ain’t the case.

Sorry, I’ve no sympathy at all with [the devils] the copyright maximalists. They wore out their welcome a long time ago.

Matt says:

I support iiNet every chance I get

This attitude & good customer service is why I support iiNet as a customer. I fear however they will lose and the government of Australia will support US business in attacking Australian voters while still not doing anything to force the US companies to pay a fair amount of tax or charge a fair price for their goods.

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