from the sure-you-don't-want-anything-else? dept
In the previous instalment of the long-running saga involving alleged pirates of the Dallas Buyers Club film in Australia, the court agreed that Australian ISP iiNet should hand over information about its customers. But it added an important proviso: the letter and telephone script to be used to contact and negotiate with them had to be approved by the court first in an effort to prevent "speculative invoicing" of the kind all-too familiar elsewhere.
Last week, more details emerged in another court hearing before the same judge. He was was concerned that the proposed letter from Dallas Buyers Club LLC (DBC) and Voltage Pictures LLC, the film's foreign sales agent -- which DBC is currently suing (pdf), in another twist in the plot -- would not quote a specific figure that those supposedly infringing would be asked to pay, as the Australian Financial Review reported:
Judge Nye Perram said he was concerned DBC was effectively being given a blank cheque, by not stipulating a dollar figure, which could allow the company to ask for a "very high number".
The judge also refused a request by DBC that the draft letter and telephone script should be withheld from the public -- DBC claimed that doing so "could weaken the company's bargaining position and reveal to alleged infringers how they could reduce the penalties sought." As a result, The Sydney Morning Herald obtained copies of both the letter and the script, and published some interesting details. For example, the letter expects parents to shop their own children:
"I need comfort that you aren't going to extort these people," Judge Perram said.
"If the person whom you believe to have engaged in Piracy is under 18 years of age, then please provide us with the full name and address of that person, confirm that that person is under 18 years of age, confirm whether you are the parent or guardian of that person and whether you are authorised to engage with us on behalf of that person," the letter will demand.
The proposed telephone script for people who ring the number given in the initial letter is even more extraordinary:
Callers who admit to the downloads will be asked to provide detailed personal answers including their employment status, whether or not they have a terminal illness, what their annual income is and whether or not they're serving in the military.
It will also ask the callers to incriminate themselves further:
"How many titles do you have available now and in the past on the BitTorrent network?" call centre operators will ask, according to the script.
It's not yet clear whether the judge will allow these incredibly intrusive questions -- he's expected to hand down his ruling next month. But it's an indication of the approach that DBC wants to take, and yet another reason why those receiving these emails should consider seeking legal advice, as The Sydney Morning Herald notes in a useful article on the topic.