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Will a landmark ruling of the Federal Court of Australia have lasting implications on file sharing and illegal downloading in Australia?

  • Are you one of the 4726 people with iinet or one of the other smaller internet service providers (“ISP”) that have been ordered to provide Voltage Pictures, the parent company of Dallas Buyers Club (the company that made the movie Dallas Buyers Club) with their contact details?
  • Should you erase your hard drive?
  • What other information could the courts in the future order an ISP to release about your use of the internet?

There is a history in the USA of lawyers in these circumstances demanding what is akin to extortionist amounts in letters of demand ranging from $100 to $10,000 in damages.

In reality, Voltage Pictures have only suffered damages of around $20 for each illegal download. That being the amount of money they would have made had the downloader legally bought the DVD.

What should you do if you get a letter of demand?

In our opinion, you have one of four choices.

  1. Reply to them saying you have an open source wireless supply at your house, you did not download the movie and you do not know who did. (If that is what occurred).
  2. Offer them $20 as full and final satisfaction of their claim in a letter endorsed “Without Prejudice Save as to Costs”.
  3. Ignore the letter on the basis it is unlikely that they will commence court proceedings against you considering their damages are only likely to be around $20 (if it was watched privately and not shared).
  4. Come and see us at Lynn & Brown Lawyers and we will see you and respond to them for a fixed fee of $250.00.

It is believed that it is unlikely that Voltage Pictures will take court proceedings against individuals who downloaded the film. It is questionable that they can prove who downloaded the film but the German based technology does allow tracing of people who file shared the film.

It has been speculated that this was action taken by Voltage Pictures to try to slow down the huge illegal copyright breaches in Australia. A salient lesson for many businesses to take from this might have been that the threat of taking court action against someone after an event can have the desired result of preventing future unlawful conduct of contractual breaches.

However, it appears that the Australian public have not been scared off from illegal downloading by this decision. On Sunday 12 April 2015 the first episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones was aired. By Tuesday 14 April 2015 it is estimated that about 150,000 illegal downloads of this episode had occurred in Australia.

What can artists do to protect their product?

Maybe Voltage Pictures will have to sue some people to make their point stronger and try to stem the tide of this ever increasing unlawful conduct of illegal downloads and file sharing.

Or perhaps artists will need to ensure that the price of their product in Australia is more akin to the price of their product in the rest of the world.

If you do get that letter or require copyright or intectually property advise, call our team at Lynn & Brown Lawyers on 9375 3411 or contact us https://www.lynnandbrown.com.au/contact

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