iiNet is facing a fresh round of copyright litigation from Hollywood as it seeks to avoid disclosing information about customers suspected of online movie piracy.
The internet provider has chosen to fight a federal court application by the owners of the film Dallas Buyers Club requiring it to hand over details of customers suspected of illegally sharing the film online.
iiNet’s chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby in a blog post said the ISP had serious concerns about Dallas Buyers Club’s motivations.
“It might seem reasonable for a movie studio to ask us for the identity of those they suspect are infringing their copyright. Yet, this would only make sense if the movie studio intended to use this information fairly, including to allow the alleged infringer their day in court, in order to argue their case," he wrote.
“In this case, we have serious concerns about Dallas Buyers Club’s intentions. We are concerned that our customers will be unfairly targeted to settle any claims out of court using a practice called ‘speculative invoicing’."
Dalby was referring to legal action taken by Dallas Buyers Club’s US owner, Voltage Films, which has sent threatening letters to scores of individuals claiming the alleged infringers were liable to fines up to $US150,000 unless they settle with the company.
Dalby described the letters as “intimidating” and said the ISP was concerned about the potential for infringers to be incorrectly identified.
Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton labelled speculative invoicing as a "scourge" that is used overseas by rights holders to "intimidate consumers who might well be completely innocent of any infringement."
"Under no circumstances should rights holders, consumers or ISPs be prepared to countenance the introduction of such tactics in the Australian market," he told iTnews.
Dallas Buyers Club’s solicitor, Marque Lawyers partner Nathan Mattock, declined to comment when contacted by iTnews.
iiNet was not the only ISP named in the federal court application, which along with iiNet subsidiaries Internode and Adam Internet also targeted and two other providers: Dodo and Amnet Broadband.
Telstra and Optus, who were not named in the application, have also been contacted for comment on whether they have agreed to supply customer details Dallas Buyers Club.
iiNet has been at the tip of the spear in the internet industry’s battle to fend liability for online piracy in Australia.
In 2012 iiNet won a three-year, landmark legal battle against a consortium of local and overseas movie studios that attempted to sue it on grounds that it authorised its customers to infringe copyright.
The case, which reached the High Court, settled legal questions over whether Australian copyright law exposed ISPs’ to liability for illegal file sharing and provided the entertainment industry with a platform to lobby for change.
The previous federal government attempted to broker a deal between ISPs and copyright owners through the Attorney-General’s department - efforts which failed when iiNet withdrew from a plan to trial a graduated response scheme that would have seen internet users sent warning notices for repeated breaches and threatened with disconnection.
The stakeholders could not reach agreement on who would bear the cost of the scheme.
The current federal Attorney-General, George Brandis, has warned ISPs that the Government would mandate a graduated ‘three strikes’ regime should rights holders and ISPs fail to reach agreement on an industry solution - a scheme the telecommunications industry has recently signalled it was willing to discuss.