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Piracy Australia The Courts

Australian ISP Offers Pro-bono Legal Advice To Accused Pirates 66

New submitter thegarbz writes: As covered previously, after losing a legal battle against Dallas Buyers Club and Voltage Pictures the Federal Court of Australia asked ISP iiNet to hand over details of customers allegedly downloading the movie The Dallas Buyers Club. iiNet has now taken the unprecedented move to offer pro-bono legal advice to all of its customers targeted over piracy claims. "It is important to remember that the Court's findings in this case do not mean that DBC and Voltage's allegations of copyright infringement have been proven," Ben Jenkins, financial controller for iiNet wrote. Also, as part of the ruling the court will review all correspondence sent to alleged copyright infringers in hopes to prevent the practice of speculative invoicing. Unless it can be proven exactly how much and and with how many people a film was shared the maximum damages could also be limited to the lost revenue by the studio, which currently stands at $10AU ($7.90US) based on iTunes pricing.
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Australian ISP Offers Pro-bono Legal Advice To Accused Pirates

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  • Pro-bono? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aaronb1138 ( 2035478 )
    I don't think it is pro-bono if you're providing it to paying customers. If anything this should become the norm, similar to the way an insurance company has lawyers to aid in handling automobile accidents.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The ISP is paid for providing Internet Service.

    • It should be the norm but its not. Company's normally side with the approach that costs the least, in this case handing over their clients details puts an end to the matter at a low cost possible cost.
      I suspect, based upon their previous legal challenges that the management of iiNet actually think that what is occurring here is wrong and they're putting their money into what they believe which isn't something that you often see in the corporate world.

      • Re:Pro-bono? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @09:48PM (#49748255)

        I suspect, based upon their previous legal challenges that the management of iiNet actually think that what is occurring here is wrong and they're putting their money into what they believe which isn't something that you often see in the corporate world.

        It also makes them a more attractive choice for an ISP to potential customers. Copyright industry is pretty much an extortion racket at this point, extracting "settlements" from random people.

        • Re:Pro-bono? (Score:5, Informative)

          by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @10:26PM (#49748435) Journal

          extracting "settlements" from random people

          Although there have been threats to do so, this isn't happening in Oz any day soon, the court specifically warned the MAFFIA not to use US style extortion letters. Any letters they send must be pre-approved by the court. If they do it now they WILL be held in contempt and possibly disbarred for abuse of process.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      I don't think it is pro-bono if you're providing it to paying customers. If anything this should become the norm, similar to the way an insurance company has lawyers to aid in handling automobile accidents.

      Insurance companies in Australia do not provide lawyers, they handle the entire thing for you because _that_ is what you pay them for.

      ISP's on the other hand, you pay for internet access, not legal access (they're internet service providers, not legal service providers). So offering legal assistance for free is pro bono.

    • So if I get charged with identity theft or credit card fraud, my ISP should offer me a free lawyer because it is alleged I used their service to commit a crime?

    • Can't compare with insurers. They have lawyers to figure out who of the two sides is liable for a certain damage - and with it, who is going to pay for it. So paying those lawyers is meant to lower the overall payouts for the insurance company, basically by getting the other side to pay.

      In this case I can't think of any direct benefit for the ISP. There may be a benefit of attracting more customers or so, but these lawyers will never lower the cost of any payout for the ISP, as it's never the ISP but always

  • Anyone surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @04:32PM (#49746703)

    Who'd you side with? Your paying customer or some shady business that does nothing for you except cause you work without compensation?

    • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 )

      Who'd you side with? Your paying customer or some shady business that does nothing for you except cause you work without compensation?

      Most companies will side with whoever has the most lawyers, which generally means the shady business.

    • Who'd you side with? Your paying customer or some shady business that does nothing for you except cause you work without compensation?

      Is that a trick question. Because based on past behavior the answer you're fishing for is the not the answer you're going to get.

    • Siding with the shady business means each case is a 10-minute job (possibly less) by some low-paid employee to get the details they want.

      Siding with the customer means each case is many hours of work by high paid lawyers.

      You need to have a hell of a lot more instances of the first case to make the second case the more economical option for the company. Therefore many companies will choose the first - especially if there are already laws in place that tell them they probably have to (meaning a most likely lo

      • Depends on your definition of siding.

        They need to send out the notice. It's in the law. They need not participate in the usual FUD of the content industry that only costs them money but doesn't generate any, while offering advice to the paying customer not only satisfies the customer but also keeps him interested in the high priced premium service. Because, well, what does the average person need a 100mbit link for if he can't leech movies?

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I believe it does depend on what country you are in.

      So what provider does fight for their customers? I know of XS4All in The Netherlands, but that is about it. Any of the larger ones in any other countries. (and not your provider that is actually a reseller).

      • It depends on their business plan. If they sell high speed internet connections, chances are that they do want people who use them, too. Because I sure as hell don't need 100mbit simply because, well, I don't download movies where I need a few gig a pop. So I don't need (and hence don't pay for) a huge pipe.

        On the other hand, if their customers notice that they must not download movies anymore, well, what do they need the fat pipes for? Right. Nothing. So the logical consequence would be to step down to a s

  • by Roskolnikov ( 68772 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @04:37PM (#49746749)

    I cringe when I consider how this would have played out with Comcast as the ISP and Universal as the media company... oh, wait....

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Australia doesn't look all that bad now.

      In other news recent polls have shown that the Pirate Party now is the largest party on Iceland.
      Political analysts speculate that the reason for their popularity is that pirates appears to be much more honest than the other politicians.

  • thank you for this post, it is a tool to learn about the hacker and the law
  • Thanks to iinet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stonefish ( 210962 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @05:00PM (#49746919)

    Not only is this the right thing to do, by attempting to stop a shakedown by a company with low moral standards, it's a great marketing ploy. Internode put a few ads on the mainstream media and get the best outcome. Australian ISP clients move to iiNet to demonstrate that this is the behavior that you want to see. I've already voted with my money and done exactly this and have been really happy with the end result. (My download speeds have also improved (ipv6 as well)

    • by Barny ( 103770 )

      Indeed. Been with Internode for a while now and at first wasn't happy with the iiNet buyout, but seeing things like this I am greatly reassured. Now, as for the TPG buyout, I am not sure where things are going to go there.

      Would be a shame to have such a good (I use the word in both the moral compass sense, as well as service provided) provider become rolled into just another corporate juggernaut.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      The shake down is already occurring in the PR bullshit associated with the story. The people targeted are not down loaders, they were torrenting hence they were uploaders, that is a huge distinction which main stream media in Australia is purposefully and corruptly distorting.

      As for iinet turning to crap, it is inevitable. TPG is simply paying more for iinet than it is worth and to get that money back they will offshore and cripple support and services. This will create a hole in the market for other com

  • Unfortunately Iinet is in the process of being sold, so they'll probably turn into assholes as soon as the new buyer takes over.
    • Re:It may not last. (Score:5, Informative)

      by DeSigna ( 522207 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @06:11PM (#49747299)

      They're being bought by the second worst ISP in Australia: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/401960,iinet-board-seriously-concerned-about-culture-post-tpg-buy.aspx [itnews.com.au], http://www.afr.com/technology/iinet-shareholders-hit-out-at-board-over-tpg-m2-takeover-battle-20150507-ggvyow [afr.com].

      They've already destroyed several large players in the infrastructure space (PIPE Networks for example, AAPT is in progress), and now one of the highest ranked customer service ISPs (if not the highest) is about to be consumed in a primarily cash-based deal, leaving the original team with no control or say in the combined company.

      There's little chance of TPG allowing anything to continue that costs more than the bare minimum. Where you previously had people who knew their stuff proactively supporting many-thousand-$-per-month corporate fibre WANs and the like, you now get a bored dude from the Philippines working through a residential ADSL support flowchart, he wouldn't know a VLAN if it was trunked right up his bum.

      iiNet/Internode/Westnet/etc are the last service-oriented consumer ISP in the marketplace. Their legal defence of their common-carrier status and their continued protection of customers is just one example. It would be a shame if they were absorbed by a company that is their exact opposite.

      (What's the worst ISP though? I reserve that title for Dodo).

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        iiNet/Internode/Westnet/etc are the last service-oriented consumer ISP in the marketplace

        +1 to everything you've said.

        There's a reason I'm still with iinet ADSL despite being able to get Telstra cable to my house. After the TPG deal I'm thinking I might just jump ship.

        Then again, I'm the kiss of death for ISP's. A few months after I joined Westnet, they were acquired by iinet, a few months after joining Internode they were acquired by iinet, a few weeks after joining iinet the TPG acquisition was an

      • by Barny ( 103770 )

        ISP? Yeah, Dodo are pretty bad. Telecoms company in general? Telstra.

        No other company has done so much, to so many, simply to try and retain market share.

        Dodo only screw with their own customers. Telstra can shit all over anyone they wish.

      • Best / Worst is a title that needs to be combined with a metric that you are looking at. Me I would rate TPG as the best ISP in Australia.

        They have absolutely SHIT customer service.

        They were however the first to offer unlimited internet, the first to offer bundling of phones so I could get out of the loop of paying Telstra for a service I don't use or paying over inflated naked DSL prices, and while their customer service was downright atrocious (poor idiot on the line, more than 6 weeks without internet ac

        • by DeSigna ( 522207 )

          Just to clarify, I was a TPG customer for >14 years, from back when they were a no-frills technically oriented dial up ISP operating off the back of an older corporate IP/X.25 WAN provider. Most of that time I was on an unlimited plan of some description. When they decided to drop any focus on quality and push for pure price competition is when they started going downhill - early '00s.

          I remember when Mr Teoh used to switch to international transit whenever he was negotiating with Telstra for better domes

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        I used to think that about Westnet, at least. A few years ago, you'd call tech support, tell them what sort of internet connection you had (ADSL, Cable, satellite, etc), and you'd get switched to a call centre located in Australia staffed by people who didn't have difficult-to-understand accents.

        Westnet was very popular with remote/rural users because their satellite was good, and the satellite tech support was good - outstanding, actually.

        My most recent tech support call to westnet gave the usual "we are

  • Australian ISP Offers Pro-bono Legal Advice To Accu r sed Pirates

    Yarrgh, that be better.

  • by countSudoku() ( 1047544 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @05:13PM (#49746983) Homepage

    It's all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You tried to sue a person for downloading a movie that they were never going to watch UNLESS they got it for free! You bumped into the Intertubes which now have to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @05:29PM (#49747071) Homepage Journal

    Although the copyright holders can send out threatening letters here in Canada, they're not allowed to collect the thousands of dollars that they do for "infringement" in the US. They're only allowed to collect *actual* damages.

    So if you're a "leech" and just download without sharing later, they can only claim the loss of one copy. If you shut off your torrent after uploading to a 1:1 ratio, they can only claim loss of one copy.

    It really takes the wind out of their sails and their idle threats if you know that fact and can respond to them appropriately. Their claims that you could be subject to "thousands" of dollars of damages is absolute BULLSHIT under Canadian law.

    • Actually it gets better here in Canada.

      To collect any money or get any information about you from your ISP, they have to sue you. If you get sued and found guilty, you pay "actual" damages or up to $5000 for all infringements, depending on the judge. However, with the way the law is worded, if you get sued for copyright infringement, it resets the clock, so to speak.

      As an example, if you are sharing Sony music albums and Disney movies, and Sony takes you to court and wins, Disney cannot sue you, Sony cann

    • I have to disagree with you here. Those amounts are penalties for copyright infringement. Having to pay no more than retail value of the downloaded copy is no deterrent, so worthless as penalty.

      The real issue with the US damages amount is the actual amount. A couple thousand dollars fine for a few dollars worth of retail value is too much. More reasonable would be something like a factor of 20-50 on the retail value. Sufficient to act as deterrent for would-be infringers, not enough to bankrupt most people

      • by msobkow ( 48369 )

        That's kind of the whole point. Canadian law is not intended to be deterrent for personal use, but a punishment for commercial abuse.

  • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Thursday May 21, 2015 @05:31PM (#49747089)

    the lost revenue by the studio, which currently stands at $10AU ($7.90US) based on iTunes pricing.

    The studio should only be entitled to recover the wholesale price, which is presumably somewhere around half of the retail price.

    • Why stop there? Why not say they should only be entitled to recover the fair market price?

      Is it in theatres now? Good, the price of one admission, then.
      Wait, it's in theatres in Bangladesh? The price of one admisssion there, then.

      Is it on sale in iTunes? Whatever that is, then.

      Is it on Netflix? Subscription cost / subscription duration * movie duration ~= $8.99 / 2,635,200 * 7200 ~= $0.03 (rounded up, being generous)

      Or, given that the market in question - that is to say, 'pirates' - decide that the fai

      • That's exactly what's happening here already. The judgement would be based on market price and revenue from that source. $14.99 on iTunes - 30% Apple cut.

    • Original submitter here: That is the wholesale price and already takes out the 30% Apple cut. The iTunes price is currently $14.99AU

    • Oh, now that'd be great! That'd allow me to take the Linux kernel, redistribute it in my devices with enhancements and whatnot and without providing the source code.

      Do come after me, I'll instantly plead guilty and my cost is limited to just a stamp. Because as the wholesale value of Linux is $0.00, the maximum amount they can sue me for is $0.00

      Do you really look forward to that? Without any punitive damages copyright will become a free for all. That includes all GPLed software - after all remember that ou

  • So there's more here: http://mashable.com/2015/05/20... [mashable.com]
    and here: http://www.itwire.com/your-it-... [itwire.com]
    For those in the TLR category, iiNET wants to charge DBC (Dallas Buyers Club LLC) $108,000 as expenses to filter and send customer info to them.
    There is a distinction that fines >$10 are for those who uploaded (seeded), so the fines maybe a lot more than $10 which is a guess anyway. How iiNET or how the capturing method — using German Maverick Eye technology can determine accurately the uploads for eac

    • Leeching is ok as long as you don't seed. But how is that possible with Bittorrent? The moment you leech, you begin to seed anyway.

      Purely a guess, IANAL but maybe it is a case of integer mathematics. Australian seeders may be able to seed 0.999999 of a copy. In this case they have not shared the movie, They have shared a collection of bits that is meaningless if it is not whole. So they should not be on the hook for anything.

      That is what I would argue anyway. Again IANAL.

      If everyone sets up their ratio rules right, there is only a minor net leeching from the country as a whole, which could hopefully be taken up by the international com

      • Copying half the pages of a book is still copyright infringement.

        • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

          You are right - though in this court case, it's not the downloaders they are going after, but the uploaders. The ratio becomes immaterial as your bittorrent will seed as soon as you leech. Even though it may be 0.001% of the file, it is still regarded as seeding AND as it contributes towards the full 100% of the file, you are a 'sharer'.
          So I give all of Slashdot (for free) this bit of knowledge:
          http://www.bitthief.ethz.ch/ [bitthief.ethz.ch]
          It's primitive but works as tested.
          Also PLEASE look at this as a nerd solution to a te

      • You can still seed at a ratio of 200 and not seed the whole file, if you're constantly uploading a single block multiple times. I don't think you'd be able to get away with claiming that you didn't seed the whole file in that case to avoid copyright infringement. Once you start breaking it up like that, the opposition lawyers will claim that you uploaded, say, 1 small segment of the file to 500 separate users, which is 500 instances of copyright infringement, even if the seed ratio is less than 1.
    • There is a distinction that fines >$10 are for those who uploaded (seeded), so the fines maybe a lot more than $10 which is a guess anyway. How iiNET or how the capturing method — using German Maverick Eye technology can determine accurately the uploads for each transgressor is questionable.

      There's nothing questionable about it at all. Maverick Eye simply doesn't do and is incapable of tracking who shared what with who. It only tracks who shared something with themselves. They have no proof at all that a seeder has shared data with anyone other than Maverick so proving actual damages as a result of seeding would be speculative at best.

  • Although, if you can make a convincing argument that, had you not pirated the movie, you would still not have purchased it, then the damages due to lost revenue are actually $0.
  • I the damages were limited to One copy $10AU and I were a stakeholder in the company that put the lawyers on this I would be having a serious word with them on the merits of fiscal responsibility and launching a potential vote of no confidence in their management.

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