Internet companies protecting customer details from Dallas Buyers Club

13 May 2015


iiNet (along with Dodo, Amcom, and Wideband) have attracted national media attention as they defend against pressure to reveal individual customers’ information.

Thomson Geer is acting for the internet companies in the matter against Dallas Buyers Club LLC, owner of the US film of the same name. Dallas Buyers Club is attempting to gain access to our clients’ customer records matching a list of 4,726 IP addresses alleged to have downloaded “Dallas Buyers Club” in torrents. They are demanding that the internet service providers (ISPs) provide the names and contact details associated with the internet accounts that are suspected of illegally downloading the film.

The ISPs opposed the application because of concerns that their customers would be unfairly targeted in order to settle claims for excessive amounts out of court using a practice known as “speculative invoicing”. Dallas Buyers Club have previously used this practice in the US, where letters of demand were issued to customers with settlement amounts of up to US$7,000.

On 7 April 2015 Justice Perram handed down his decision indicating that discovery would be granted, but that important safeguards for the ISPs’ customers would be put in place, including that the Court would oversee the form any letter Dallas Buyers Club intends to send to account holders.  The legal threshold for preliminary discovery of the identity of prospective respondents is low, so it was never likely that the application would not succeed. However the imposition by the Court of an unprecedented degree of oversight over a prospective applicant’s conduct is a positive outcome for our clients and their customers.

On 22 April 2015 the parties were back in Court regarding the form of orders.  On 6 May 2015 Justice Perram officially ordered the ISPs to hand over the customer information, on a date to be fixed once the Court is satisfied about the form of any letter to be sent to account holders.  A further hearing date is set down for 21 May 2015 when the parties will be heard regarding the form of the letter.

Our clients opposed the application as an “important test case” for how copyright continues to be dealt with in Australia.  Watch this space for further developments!