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In an August 2015 Federal Court decision that has satisfied many internet users Justice Perram has come down on the side of internet users and has refused to hand over to the parent companies of the film Dallas Buyers Club the details of thousands of people who allegedly downloaded the film earlier this year, without the parent companies paying a $600,000 bond and dramatically rewriting the terms of payment that it proposed to seek from alleged downloaders.

If you have been a reader of our newsletters for some time you will know that we have been following this case through instalments in our newsletter in April and in our July newsletter.

What was this decision about?

The Court gave its decision on the letter that the parent companies had proposed sending to the owners of the 4,726 IP addresses that they had identified as having downloaded the film.

The Court found that the letter was asking for four main forms of payment, being:

  1. The cost of purchase of a copy of the film for each copy of the film downloaded.
  2. A “license fee” for payable by people found to have uploaded the film.
  3. Additional “damages” payment for other films found to have been downloaded.
  4. Court costs.

The court effectively found that numbers 1 and 4 were reasonable, but numbers 2 and 3 were not.

License fees and damages unreasonable

The parent companies of the film had proposed to charge those who had illegally downloaded the film thousands of dollars in licensing fees, which the Federal Court judge who has been hearing the matter, Justice Perram described in his August judgment as, “so surreal as not to be taken seriously.”

Justice Perram went on to say of the claim by parent companies, “If such a claim were made in a proceeding for copyright infringement in this Court I am satisfied that it would be dismissed summarily without trial … as a case having no reasonable prospects of success.”

His Honour found that the parent company was not entitled to claim “damages” from downloaders of Dallas Buyers Club just because it may be able to establish that those who had downloaded that film had also downloaded other films.

Where to from here?

The 14 day time limit within which the parent companies of the film had to appeal Justice Perram’s decision has expired without an appeal being lodged, so now the options for the parent companies are to pay the required $600,000 bond and then have the details of the downloaders released to them.

Should the parent companies elect to do so the amount that they can claim from each downloader will be limited to the cost of purchasing the film and a small portion of their court costs, which may well prove a disincentive for the parent companies to act at all.

Those who were worried that that they may have been caught up in the downloading scandal can probably rest a little easier now, whilst for the makers of the film, it appears that their focus may now be on the new film in the series Demolition.

About the authors:

This article has been authored by Jacqueline Brown who is a director at Lynn & Brown Lawyers.  Jacqui has over 19 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in family law, mediation and estate planning.  Jacqui is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator and a Notary Public.

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