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AUSTRALIA: Update: Dallas Buyers Club letter revealed – Is it still speculative invoicing?

By Matthew Evans

In the latest update of the Dallas Buyers Club case the proposed letters to be sent to pirates have now been made public.

It was previously ordered that Voltage (the company owning the rights to Dallas Buyers Club) was required to submit to the Court a draft of the letters and telephone script it proposed to use when contacting customers pursuant his Honour Justice Perram’s ruling on 7 April 2015.

According to his Honour, this was to prevent the practice of “speculative invoicing” that Voltage has previously engaged in. As discussed in our last update speculative invoicing is the practice of sending aggressive letters to potential pirates asserting they are liable for substantial amounts of money and offering to settle for a smaller (but still large) sum.

The letter is now publically available here following Voltage’s unsuccessful attempt to argue for confidentiality before Justice Perram on Thursday 18 June. The letter and telephone script have been subject to a spate of criticism for asking for information such as the recipient’s annual income and how many movie titles the person has illegally downloaded over peer-to-peer file sharing services now and in the past on the basis that it is difficult to justify how these questions are relevant to the damages suffered by Voltage. The arguments have made the point that having a higher annual income does not make the offence of copyright infringement any more serious: any damage suffered by Voltage is the same. Both the letter and script have been criticised as an overreach by Voltage to obtain more information than it is entitled to. As put by Counsel for iiNet, Richard Lancaster SC, “[this is not] a royal commission into end users use of the bittorrent network, this is a case about Dallas Buyers Club the film.” The letter itself is very strongly worded and contains the threat of legal action should the recipient not respond. Both the letter and script are currently under consideration by Justice Perram as to whether it is acceptable or whether it is speculative invoicing.

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Permanent link to this article: https://blogs.dlapiper.com/mediaandsport/2015/06/australia-update-dallas-buyers-club-letter-revealed-is-it-still-speculative-invoicing/