iiNet forced to hand over customer data

By Leith van Onselen

The war on unauthorised downloading has taken a worrying turn, with a landmark federal court ruling this afternoon ordering iiNet and a few other ISPs to hand over details of some 5,000 customers that unlawfully downloaded and then “seeded” Dallas Buyers Club, potentially opening them up for large scale law suites for copyright breaches. From IT News:

In Sydney’s federal court today, Justice Nye Perram ruled that so-called preliminary discovery should be granted to the rights holder, with certain conditions.

To protect customer privacy, DBC LLC will be restricted from publicising the names of any alleged infringers iiNet hands over.

Perram also ordered that any letter sent to an iiNet customer alleged to have infringed copyright be sent to himself for approval.

One of iiNet’s arguments against the granting of preliminary discovery had been around the potential for threatening letters to be sent to its customers, an approach DBC LLC had taken in the US.

Hopefully this decision will not lead to “speculative invoicing”, whereby DBC LLC sends aggressive letters to seeders, threatens legal action, and then demands unreasonable compensation to avoid going to court.

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    • Bloody hell.

      Now I have to try and remember if I downloaded it or bought a black copy overseas.

      I hereby declare I will never pay for media ever again. If I can’t get it for free, I’m not watching it.

  1. Oh, a federal court of a colony of the former British empire that is has been a subsidiary of the US since the conclusion of WWII is *just so happening* to side in the interest of the USA and her corporations.

    Who are these fat cats to threaten OUR citizens? Any Government (of actual representation) worth it’s salt would shut-down this case and give DBC LLC the finger.

    God save the Queen, old chaps.

  2. “Hopefully this decision will not lead to “speculative invoicing”, whereby DBC LLC sends aggressive letters to seeders, threatens legal action, and then demands unreasonable compensation to avoid going to court.”

    The very fact that the judge has to ok the letter being sent indicates that it was clear from the start to him that this was the intent from the beginning. So i ask you why decide in favor if he has these obvious concerns !!!.
    Also how is it that the court can just accept that some random 3rd party can provide a set of IP address as definitive information and proof of ANYTHING other that they “found” the IP address.
    Where is the chain of custody of evidence that the IP addresses were even found to be downloading this material. Where is the accredited oversight body that validates and verify the chain of custody of the collection of information and verifies it was collected in a manner that complies to a rigorous standard acceptable to be used as evidence !!! Is this the low bar of accepting evidence we now allow. For all we know this unknown uncredited 4 man band, whom where showen under cross examination to not even understand how the software they use worked could have generated a random list of IP addresses they knew to be from Australian telcos. Where is the actual proof in any form at all to prove the allegations they are making.

    • “Also how is it that the court can just accept that some random 3rd party can provide a set of IP address as definitive information and proof of ANYTHING other that they “found” the IP address.”

      Remember that this is only the first step in the process.

      What will likely happen now is that the alleged offenders get sent a “speculative invoice” offering them a choice between settling and potentially being taken to court. If the alleged offenders choose to go to court they will be able to challenge exactly how reliable the evidence is against them.

      If the IP address turns out to be completely wrong or recorded in a blatantly inappropriate manner then there it’s quite possible that costs could be awarded against the rights holders.

      The moral of the story is don’t torrent material that you shouldn’t…without taking precautions like using a non-Australian based VPN. And remember that action will become far more common after the metadata retention scheme becomes active.

      Edit: And the first rule of USENET is…you DO NOT talk about USENET.

      • wrt Kazaa

        “Are the lawsuits working? Has the arbitrary singling out of nearly 30,000 random American families helped promote public respect for copyright law? Have the lawsuits put the P2P genie back in the bottle or restored the record industry to its 1997 revenues?

        After five years of threats and litigation, the answer is a resounding no.

      • @statssailor,

        I wasn’t questioning the success of the lawsuits in preventing illegal downloads. I was questioning AB’s comments on alleged offenders being willing to take the matter to court.

      • “Read about what happened in the Kazaa court cases and tell me whether you would seriously contemplate taking on big business in a court of law.”

        I can’t really see the relevance of a US court decision on any DBC actions that take place in Australian courts. So yeah, I would absolutely go to court if I got a letter from DBC (particularly given that I’ve never downloaded or even watched the movie).

        The onus is completely on DBC to prove that the target of their letters was the one who did the downloading – it won’t be an easy task.

        On the Kazaa case, is nearly $2 million in damages that much worse than $220,000? Most people would be declaring bankruptcy in both cases.

        Here’s some advice on what to do if you receive a letter…

      • I think there’s actually some important legal issues that will need to be progressed through court (and hopefully someone with the financial resources and/or testicular fortitude to challenge them will do so).

        For example, the real offense is typically not downloading, but distributing – ie: uploading (if you’ve gotten any copyright nastygrams, read them – they’re accusing you of “distribution”). This is something tools like bittorrent do by default, but there’s an argument that if your torrent client never uploads an entire copy of [whatever] to a specific individual, then ultimately all you’ve “distributed” is random bits of data that are meaningless in that form.

        Obviously if you’re using newsgroups or even more esoteric (these days) avenues like IRC or FTP and only ever download, then you haven’t participated in “distribution” at all.

        I like to keep an open wifi network at my place for some plausible deniability. 🙂

      • AB said
        ” is nearly $2 million in damages that much worse than $220,000? Most people would be declaring bankruptcy in both cases”

        What if they have an IP portfolio? Can we expect to see a wave of copyright-trolling induced forced sales of investment properties?

      • Here’s some advice on what to do if you receive a letter…

        “If we start proceedings in Australia I will make it clear to local counsel ‘you will not pursue the handicapped, welfare cases or people that have mental issues or the military’ and that’s the majority of what’s going on with the download.

        “We’re very concerned about the press saying ‘how dare Voltage pursue a military veteran or an autistic child’ as that sort of press would ruin us. It’s not about the money here, it’s about stopping illegal piracy.”

        Clearly it’s not about “stopping illegal piracy” or they wouldn’t be excluding offenders that would generate press that would ruin them.

        In a sane world, that statement alone from a representative of the company would result in every case they bring being thrown out.

        I didn’t bother reading the comments below the article, but I assume the copyright astroturfers were out in force promoting the whole “copyright infringement = theft” lie ?

      • “I think there’s actually some important legal issues that will need to be progressed through court (and hopefully someone with the financial resources and/or testicular fortitude to challenge them will do so).”

        +many on that one.

        Here’s a little more on the process. Note that things are moving far more slowly in Canada (where the courts also demanded to review any letters before they were sent).

        “The court ruling was very specific in saying ‘you can’t just go out and send letters saying give us thousands of dollars or we’ll take you to court’.

        “There is a fairly big barrier ahead for Dallas Buyers Club in order to start sending out those letters.

        “I think … people will get letters eventually, but it will be very specific about what your rights are and how much you will have to pay.

        “In the US you got letters saying, ‘give us $7,000 or we’ll take you to court’. In Canada they tried the same sort of thing but the court put a similar proviso on, ‘we have to see the letter before you send it out’.

        “That was in February 2014 and they haven’t sent any letters out … it’s not clear whether we’ll see any letters sent out.”

      • AB – US court cases are only relevant as an obiter dicta. It is in no way binding but may sway a judge – but it can be relevant.

      • Commercially movie companies don’t need that and it costs them. DBC is a small outfit so they are not like the conglomerates. It may be just animosity as there is a lot of that in copyright land and with a success like DBC – almost as good as Easy Rider – they have deep pockets.

      • I assume the conditions attached to the finding, and the judge’s apparent reservations about his own finding, are in part due to the judge trying to avoid setting precedent.


        An Optus spokeswoman said the telco was not part of the proceedings. It is understood to have received a letter from the same lawyers demanding details of subscribers, but declined to reveal them without a court order and received no further correspondence.

        A Telstra spokeswoman said it was not contacted by Dallas Buyers Club and had no opinion on why it had been excluded from the sweep.

        But Anny Slater, of Slaters Intellectual Property Lawyers, said the plaintiff would have picked iiNet ahead of Telstra as the “best chance” of success, possibly after studying the 2012 landmark case brought against the Perth-based telco by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft. iiNet won that case, but among the documents exposed during the process were case notes that pointed to higher legal hurdles at Telstra and its omission from that legal action.

        “They skipped Telstra completely. They think they have a better chance [without it],” Ms Slater said.

        iiNet has also been very vocal about protecting its customers’ privacy and may have been seen as a good publicity medium for the anti-piracy case. iiNet has said it will oppose the request in court.

        It is also understood all the ISPs included in the action are represented by the same law firm, Thomson Greer, providing the plaintiff with a simpler and more cost-effective legal avenue.

  3. If it’s P2P program that’s doing the downloading, how does a VPN work when they’re typically say a Chrome extension?

    i.e. The data’s not going through the browser where the VPN extension lives.

    • If you subscribe to a proper VPN service such as IPA you either download and run a VPN client on your PC that routes your data for all your software via the VPN Providers systems or you can configure your adsl router to connect and route the data for ALL PC on your network to the VPN.
      I have even seen in USA advertising that you can purchase routers from VPN providers reconfigured to link to thier VPN services.

      • Also worth pointing out that it’s important to be able to stop your torrent client instantly if the VPN is disconnected for some reason.

        I use Little Snitch on Mac OS which is configured to only allow torrents (on the rare occasion that I use them) when my computer is connected via VPN.

        I’m sure there’s something for Windows that does the same and it’s easy to configure Linux firewall(s) to do that.

      • Yes AB.
        Its always a possibility that your VPN connection may disconnect for an unknown reason.
        If that happens your software will quite happily without any warning revert to using your “regular” connection. You have several options to overcome this.
        If your VPN client software supports it (Like IPA) there is a option to turn on a VPN deadman switch, if your VPN disconnects your PC loses all internet access. This however as they caution is a signficant change to to PC underlying networking, so only use it if you realy must.
        This is fine if you have a dedicated machine for this sort of thing.
        But if your machine is multi user/purpose then i suggest as per my research:
        1. using windows 7 you can set up a network zone to force one or more pieces of software to route traffic via the VPN network as seen on the PC.
        2. using any other windows including windows 8, it has been suggested to download a free firewall called comodo where you can also use it to establish a network zone to force applications to send traffic only on the VPN.

        Instructions on how to set it up are readily available.
        The gist is if the vpn disconnects or is not available the applications tagged in the set up will not be able to transmit data, or make an external network connection.

      • With my VPN, you just configure the torrent client to use their proxy servers. Never fails. No need to connect your web traffic via VPN at the same time.

      • RTM,
        From some articles i have read, connecting certain clients to a vpn proxy does not always guarantee that the client will only show the VPN ip address. In particular if you use DHT in the client i have read of clients connecting with your isp allocated IP address. Weather you are exposed in this manner or not depends on the client you use. Despite what may or may not be written in the documentation of the client i have read of cases where using only the proxy type connection can still result in leaking of your real IP address. Mostly because the client software does not live up to its claims. In addition you also run the risk of DNS leakage. But there are some clients out there that apparently do live up to their claims.

  4. I didn’t notice it above so here is a list of the other providers who will hand over info (taken from fairfax)

    “In addition to iiNet, ISPs Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks will also be required to hand over customer details.”

  5. All this beefing up of copyright prosecution ability and the normalisation of the premise that thoughts are property is in preparation for when 3D printers really are good enough for you to “download a car”.

  6. I’ve been saying for years that the apparatus required to effectively prevent copyright infringement, and that required to implement an omniscient police state, are the same thing.

    Copyright is a government enforced monopoly; in no way is it a natural right. It is one of the greatest threats to Freedom and privacy around.

    But you won’t hear that from anyone in power. Instead you’ll get dog whistling about Muslims.

    Corporate state, here we come!