The Dallas Buyers Club v iiNet saga is officially over. It would appear that the thousands of people who downloaded Dallas Buyers Club are “off the hook”, and can breathe a sigh of relief.
You may recall that the companies (referred to as “DBC”) that own the rights to the Matthew McConaughey film Dallas Buyers Club have been locked in a legal stoush with a collection of internet service providers to gain access to the personal information of people who had downloaded or “torrented” Dallas Buyers Club(for more detail, you can read our original email alert here).
Despite having initially good prospects, a December decision of the Federal Court of Australia appeared to severely restrict DBC’s ability to take enforcement action against infringers. At the time, this led us to ask the question: is this decision the final twist in the tale of Dallas Buyers Club v iiNet?
DBC were given until noon last Thursday (11 February) to appeal that decision. No application was made by the deadline, which triggered a dismissal of the entire proceedings.
This seems to be based on the high costs of launching an appeal. Michael Bradley of Marque Lawyers, who represent DBC, told the BBC that their “client considered the costs and benefits of taking this particular application further and decided against it”.
What does this mean for downloaders?
While the people who downloaded Dallas Buyers Club have dodged a bullet, this development is certainly not an authorisation or approval from the courts for people to continue illegally downloading content over the BitTorrent network.
The key failing in DBC’s case was that they went too hard, and “overreached” in arguing for extremely punitive levels of compensation from individual infringers. The core concept of pursuing copyright infringers was actually deemed as entirely reasonable by Justice Perram - it was just the way DBC did it that caused problems.
This leaves the door open for other copyright-holders to bring more modest claims against infringers. Additionally, Justice Perram’s conclusions are yet to be tested at a full trial, or by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia. Future courts may take a more sympathetic stance towards copyright holders.
While the credits may be rolling on Dallas Buyers Club v iiNet, we are almost certainly in store for a series of blockbuster copyright infringement cases that will shape how many Australians consume digital media well into the future.