Alleged Dallas Buyers Club Pirates To Be Asked For Employment, Income And Health Details

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”.

“I need comfort that you aren’t going to extort these people,” Judge Perram said.

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:

“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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: dallas buyers club, voltage pictures

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Comments on “Alleged Dallas Buyers Club Pirates To Be Asked For Employment, Income And Health Details”

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34 Comments
PaulTsays:

Unsurprisingly, there’s a number of scenarios that aren’t covered in the revealed information but are either glossed over or ignored.

From the letter: “What evidence do you have that I infringed the film?2. From the response… nothing, really. The claim to have an IP address, but this at best identifies a router and not a person. I also don’t see that information that could allow a person to immediately defend themselves if they can prove they could not have infringed (e.g. IP address, date/time of infringement, service/application used, preferably an extract from the log used as evidence) – although these may simply be missing from the extracts we’re seeing. This is vital, since previous cases have been brought against innocent people for various easily dismissed reasons, ranging from the ISP misreading its own logs to people being accused of using Windows-only programs on an OSX-only computer.

On top of that, they ask if the person who infringed is over or under 18. What about the very realistic 3rd response – I honestly don’t know who could have done this? There’s a list of honest reasons why you wouldn’t be able to identify an actual person responsible for any infringement, ranging from another member of the household having given access to the router to a person without your knowledge or permission, to someone nearby having hacked the router.

These real issues are not addressed, but I doubt they care about that. The whole point of this is to try and get as much money as possible from the easiest targets possible, innocent persons be damned. The best evidence of this are the questions about terminal illness/military employment. If it were about recouping lost income, these would be irrelevant, as would be the income question (which is blatantly included to answer the question “how much can we fleece out of this guy?”). I just wish there was a way to honestly identify the costs involved in all actions here – the actual losses caused by those 4726 supposed downloads vs. the lost revenue from people who refuse to support these idiots with their legal purchases, costs involved in pursuing them, etc.

I suspect they’ve lost more by doing this than they actually lost through piracy, but I don’t think there’s a way to prove it. Let’s just say that I can honestly name at least 5 purchases that Voltage have lost from me as a direct result of this crap, and my only regret is that it’s not at least 6 (I bought Killer Joe on DVD before I realised it was a Voltage production). I hope enough others have made a similar response so that they are actually losing more by doing this than they would have done if they had done nothing.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

One wonders if part of the reason to not talk about numbers is they are going to be banking on Australians not being aware of the actual penalties involved. Copyright trolls have used the ‘Gold Standard’ of the $150K damages even in countries where that isn’t supported by the law.
They are trying to prey on people who aren’t aware of the actual law. (and pretty much proving that exporting the US system is such a goal because of the high numbers)

If someone were to search these firms and lawsuit you end up getting much of the coverage form the US and elsewhere, and while these cases often have problems the $150K is ALWAYS talked about in media coverage (though on most blogs covering trolling we point out the number is a scare tactic) and people might freak getting “legal” notices.

These letters are going to try and gather a bunch of information based on the flawed premises
– that the supersecret tech works perfectly
– that you are responsible
– that even if you were unaware you are responsible
– you better tell us who did it or we go after you (shades of McCarthy)
– the courts will stop watching us, and we’ll keep sending letters without an underlying case (this will look prophetic soon enough, but its been done before)

On the upside they are getting much more media coverage of this dirty secret of the ‘War on Piracy’ and perhaps more people will wonder why they don’t win by making the content available sooner and at the price the market wants to pay. That the content cartel players want a broken system like this because they win all around.
– they use the numbers to demand more law
– they use those laws to get more power
– they use the power to get more financial incentives
– that using a broken outdated system makes them more than remembering their business is selling to consumers not lording over them.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

And here is where people flip out, because I disagree.
I think what we need is actual reform of the entire system.

I think that content makers should have a LIMITED TIME to profit from their work, but we have perverted that ideal to giving them multiple lifetimes of control to make a buck.
Dead people long after their death will not be encouraged to create anything new, and the system only encourages them to seek rent from anyone who wished to build upon what should be a shared cultural heritage.

I think that separating commercial from noncommercial when computing fines would remove the incentives to not meet market demand. If the most they could hope for was x2 retail (a reasonable punishment for the ‘crime’) they would do everything they could to get it into the market and selling, rather than playing games trying to maximize the multiple cuts they give themselves through all sorts of channels.

I think that in an age of abundance of content, it should be a crime that content is not available at any price. If we reward them for withholding, they will withhold. Without that benefit they would find a way to make the content available.

I think that who has the rights needs to be centralized, so we never face someone building on something trying to do the right thing only to be met with we dunno if we have the rights, we don’t care to look, but if you make a buck we’ll sue you blind. This does not encourage creation, it encourages holding expression hostage to the whims of those who create nothing.

There is more, but I think the idea of copyright isn’t horrible, what we turned it into is the real crime.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

Eliminating copyright may change the business models of the middlemen, but they only control a very small percentage of the works being produces and published. Most creators create for reasons that have little to do with money, and their main desire is to find an audience, and the Internet allows them to do this. For the majority of creators, copyright is a best a very minor help, but is more likely a source of problems because of the DMCA and other efforts to protect the works from a minority of creators, after the copyright has been given to a publisher, label or studio.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

“they only control a very small percentage of the works being produces and published”

Because copyright prevents them from doing so without a contract agreement. Remove copyright, and they can distribute, alter, adapt, re-purpose works in any way without any input from or payment to the original artist. Sure, others would be able to do the same to their work in return, but the distribution channels, marketing, access to funding, etc. would still all be in their favour.

“For the majority of creators, copyright is a best a very minor help”

I strongly disagree. Sure, in its current form, copyright is little direct help and often a hindrance. But, it’s not doing nothing. Removing it completely without some other form of protection in place to replace it would realistically just hand all their work over to those corporations without any compensation or recourse.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

Because copyright prevents them from doing so without a contract agreement. Remove copyright, and they can distribute, alter, adapt, re-purpose works in any way without any input from or payment to the original artist.

Why would they even attempt to do so, when there are more people clamoring for their services than they can deal with. The reason that the legacy industries keep attacking Google and the Internet is not because piracy is hurting their profits, but because the rising tide of self publishing, and its discovery by more and more people, is competition that they do not know how to deal with other than shutting it down.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

“Why would they even attempt to do so, when there are more people clamoring for their services than they can deal with.”

Why would they do it? Really? Look at how many movies they’re remaking over and over. This is not an industry of ideas, at least not at the studio executive level. Now imagine that they get to remake any movie, or adapt any work, without having to licence or pay a single cent to the original creator.

There’s stories all the time of people getting ripped off by studios, be it getting screwed out of royalties for work they did by “Hollywood accounting”, ideas being stolen wholesale (look into the story behind Gravity, for example) and many other ways. Now imagine if they were legally allowed to do any of these things. Of course, you can argue that the smaller guys could do the same thing, but it’s not likely to happen in a way that stops works literally being stolen for profit by the majors.

It’s also likely to have a detrimental effect on the art itself, since the guys in it for profit would still make money but the ones doing it for the art might not even get credited for their own work, let alone paid. Sadly, the unwashed masses don’t normally care enough to get behind the little guy either, not when there’s a new shiny thing for sale.

“The reason that the legacy industries keep attacking Google and the Internet is not because piracy is hurting their profits, but because the rising tide of self publishing, and its discovery by more and more people, is competition that they do not know how to deal with other than shutting it down.”

This is all true. But, that doesn’t change the fact that abolishing copyright and replacing it with nothing would be a very, very bad idea. We need to change the way the system’s been gamed in the corporations’ favour, not shut it down entirely.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

There’s stories all the time of people getting ripped off by studios, be it getting screwed out of royalties for work they did by “Hollywood accounting”, ideas being stolen wholesale (look into the story behind Gravity, for example) and many other ways.

How many people have successfully used the courts to obtain redress, without going bankrupt as the process is dragged out for years by the corporations?
Copyright is only useful to those who can use the courts to defend their rights, that is for the big corporation and the very rich.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

“How many people have successfully used the courts to obtain redress, without going bankrupt as the process is dragged out for years by the corporations?”

Irrelevant, since a lot of the examples I posed were more to do with contract violations than copyright issues.

The point is, that’s the mindset these people have. If that’s what they do to people who agree to work with them under contract, what do you think they’d do with content produced by people with whom they have no such agreement?

“Copyright is only useful to those who can use the courts to defend their rights, that is for the big corporation and the very rich.”

Wrong. Copyright is the reason why, for example, studios currently have to bid on the rights to adapt a novel for the screen. All those stories you read about thousands or even millions being paid to licence properties? Gone. The studios can adapt whatever they want without paying anything to the original author. Ditto music – independent musicians might release a great song, but major labels can get their glorified karaoke models to do cover versions of any of them without having to pay any kind of royalty. You could even get them falsely claiming to be the original, with little legal recourse for the person who literally had their work stolen.

You surely see the problem here? Like it or not, copyright exists for a reason. It’s been mutilated and transformed into something well beyond what was originally intended and desperately needs to be fixed. But, completely removing it would be worse for those poor folks you’re claiming to defend.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

This is the first problem, the middlemen.
There are so many middlemen at every step slicing away the cash all to benefit themselves and those who choke the content stream.

Copyright would let a small creator protect themselves from the large players who manage to “accidentally” steal someone elses creations to line their own pockets. As we have seen copyrights have been twisted so far to the corps often screwing the actual artists. IIRC there was a comic book artists who was BARRED from signing his own work because one of the cartels owned his creations and to be dicks they said no its ours because we got you to sign a contract & then changed the law to make our terms more favorable to us.

If a copyright was easy to get an artist could acquire one on their creation and license it rather than have to sign it away. No longer do they need the cartels to get out there, the interwebs makes it so anyone can get their content out there. They no longer have to be bled dry with hidden costs being taken from their small slice (seriously vinyl breakage costs in current music contracts). They can then reup the license or move their creation to someone willing to give them a better deal. No more seeing a beloved character twisted into something the creator never wanted only because a focus group told the cartel it woudl play better if watered down.

I think artists are pushed to surrender their copyrights with promises from liars. They don’t look to see all before them who got screwed. Control of your copyright gives you the power, and if you look you can find someone who will work with you rather than demand to enslave your ideas for 3 lifetimes.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

and one of the largest fixes would be assessing fines for incorrect notices. Big corporations have been caught taking down content they don’t own but want to control. They can do this because there is no downside to bad claims. If they had to pay up each time, and lets add multipliers for breaking thresholds in each quarter, they would behave better.

Only when there is a cost to them, do they care. For far to long everyone else had to bear their costs on multiple levels, time for them to pay up for their bad behavior.

Anonymoussays:

How many titles?

“How many titles do you have available now and in the past on the BitTorrent network?” call centre operators will ask

What does this even mean? “The BitTorrent network” isn’t a thing as far as I know. And what does it mean to have a title available? Does it mean something you’ve downloaded, something you’ve uploaded, something you could have downloaded?

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: How many titles?

“”The BitTorrent network” isn’t a thing as far as I know”

No, it’s not. It’s a file protocol that operates primarily on the public internet.

As for the rest, I’d presume something that’s available from you as a seeder. So, for most people, something they’ve downloaded but haven’t immediately stopped seeding.

I have no idea how an honest answer could be expected from that. Nobody’s going to tell someone who’s clearly fishing to get as much money from them as possible how many files they’re seeding. It’s also likely that lots of people either honestly have no idea or they knew little enough about torrents to know that they were seeding in the first place.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: If admitting facts incriminates you, better stop your actions.

“Techdirt as ever is enraged because copyright might be enforced.”

No. Techdirt is rightly enraged because these terrorists are asking for personal information for no reason other than to determine how much they can extort from their victims.

You need to stop lying.

The copyright holders should be forced to demand only fair amounts – no more than five times the current price of a retail copy of the movie.

That pays for the infringement, and allows a fair amount of punitive damages too. There’s no legitimate reason for the larger amounts they’ve demanded in the past.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: If admitting facts incriminates you, better stop your actions.

“You need to stop lying.”

Yeah, right. That’s all he’s got. If he admits that the issue is not that laws are being enforced, but the methods by which enforcement is attempted, he doesn’t just lose a way to attack the object of his obsession. He’s also forced to admit that most readers here are actually on his side to some degree or another. His fragile mind won’t take that level of reality intruding.

“There’s no legitimate reason for the larger amounts they’ve demanded in the past.”

Well, greed for one, broken business models another.

The main problem is that most of the laws were created during a time when duplication was an expensive and specialised task. Due to this, examinations of duplication on any kind of mass scale implicitly assumed that they would only be performed for profit and the punishments were set accordingly. Demanding thousands or even millions from an organisation involved in widespread international bootlegging was hardly an issue, not least because most such actors were involved in other forms of organised crime.

But then, technology changed the realities. True to form, the courts and industry have not adjusted their thinking and set the expectations according to reality. Now we have individuals sharing content with each other – as they always did with physical media, just now on a larger scale – for absolutely nothing. The same punishments now suddenly seem ridiculously excessive. You can’t punish an individual who copied a file in the same way as you’d charge a criminal gang who’ve set up a disc processing facility.

That’s logical to anyone with any sense, but they haven’t caught up yet. Or, they realise that despite the same technology that enables infringement being infinitely useful for reducing their own costs and expanding their own market, it also reduces their profit margins. So, they’ll ride this train until it crashes, and leave their successors to pick up the pieces with business methods that actually apply to this century. But, the courts have to tell them where to stick their demands first, and that will probably require changes to the laws – laws which those same corporations are intent on buying in their favour.

G Thompsonsays:

The actual Exhibits on Scribd (with downloadable PDF format) are now available

Ex.1 “The Q&A Script” https://www.scribd.com/doc/269424789/2015-06-18-Exhibit-1-From-Hearing

Exhibit 2 “The Letter to alleged infringers” https://www.scribd.com/doc/269424819/2015-06-18-Exhibit-2-From-Hearing

more Info at Zdnet http://www.zdnet.com/article/court-releases-dallas-buyers-club-piracy-letter/

That One Guysays:

Re: ... what

Although Dallas Buyers Club has agreed to send the letter in this form initially, subsequent letters sent by the firm will not have court oversight, giving the firm the ability to increase its demands. The company has said that it plans to chase other alleged infringers in the future, and taking that course of action would likely make it difficult for the court to approve access to customer details in the future.

Brilliant. Unless I’m totally misreading that, they can be as ‘nice’ as they want with the initial batch of extortion demands, because they can re-write them in the future without any court involvement at all.

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