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The trouble that awaits up to 4726 Aussie pirates

Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015

Information Age

Internet service providers including iiNet and Dodo have been ordered by a court to turn over the name and residential address details of 4726 people suspected of sharing a film called the Dallas Buyers Club online.

What that means for those 4726 people has been the subject of fierce debate.

The film's owner says they should be worried, but it won't be capable of issuing huge speculative invoices to worry them as it has done in other jurisdictions.

Speculative invoicing often involves sending letters to alleged pirates "demanding a large sum of money and offering to settle for a smaller sum which was still very much in excess of what might actually be recovered in any [law] suit," according to the judgment handed down last week.

"The issue of speculative invoicing is a term that originated in the US, and is not something known in Australia," Gilbert + Tobin partner Michael Williams told Information Age.

"There is no culture of exaggerated monetary demands in Australia like speculative invoicing. This is the first decision considering it."

A Perth man who previously lived in the US was subject to speculative invoicing by Dallas Buyers Club.

He told The West Australian that he faced speculative demands of $5000 and $8000 but - through a lawyer - the settlement was knocked down to $500.

Cognisant of this, the judge in the Australian case, Justice Nye Perram, imposed conditions on the way Dallas Buyers Club can communicate with accused Australian internet users in the first instance.

Among the conditions are that Justice Perram must approve the text of any letters to be sent out, which is likely to curtail threats or aggression on rights holders' parts.

It is unclear if other jurisdictions have adopted this level of oversight, although it appears Dallas Buyers Club's owners are toning down their aggression in Asia Pacific.

In Singapore - where similar legal action is underway - 77 of around 500 internet users there have been issued "letters of demand" that "ask for a written offer of damages and costs."

No speculative amount is demanded, and lawyers claimed to have already had some offers returned.

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