Australian Court Rules ISPs Must Identify Illegal Downloaders of 'Dallas Buyers Club'

Internet providers have lost an Australian court battle to keep secret the names of Internet users suspected of illegally downloading Hollywood movie Dallas Buyers Club over file-sharing networks.

The Federal Court ruling on Tuesday is a landmark win for copyright holders in a country which has a reputation for being among of world’s most prolific Internet pirates.

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Justice Nye Perram granted a discovery order sought by the 2013 movie’s copyright owner Dallas Buyers Club LLC to access names and home addresses of more than 4,700 Australian Internet account holders.

Detailed orders will be thrashed out when the case returns to court on April 21.

It is not clear whether the Internet service providers will appeal the decision before the Full Bench of the Federal Court.

BitTorrent is a file-sharing protocol that allows for simultaneous uploading and downloading many small parts of a larger file, meaning no individual is responsible for uploading and downloading illegally pirated content.

Consumer rights organization Choice slammed the ruling, arguing that the decision has left nearly one-third of Australians in legal limbo because of outdated copyright laws.

“We’ve yet to see a case in Australia where someone has been taken to court for unlawful online downloads. We know that one-third of Australians pirate TV shows and movies and we’re worried that under our current copyright laws they could face fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Choice campaigns manager Erin Turner in a statement.

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“Our copyright laws were written in the 1960s and were last updated to recognize that people taped shows on their VCR. We need to make sure our laws properly balance the need to protect both copyright and consumers in the digital era. Because of our out-of-date copyright laws this is uncharted legal territory. Anyone accused of copyright infringement should get legal advice.”

The Dallas Buyers Club case arrives following months of negotiations on an anti-piracy industry code between rights holders and ISPs. A proposed anti-piracy industry code was submitted Wednesday to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for registration.