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.