EFA, Pirate Party slam film industry lawsuit “extortion”


news Digital rights groups Electronic Frontiers Australia and the Pirate Party Australia have taken a dim view of a film industry plan to threaten thousands of Australians with file sharing lawsuits, respectively labelling the effort as risking disproportionate punishment to users and as “extortion” carried out by “copyright trolls”.

On Saturday Delimiter revealed that a new company named Movie Rights Group had approached every major Australian ISP with the aim of securing the details of some 9,000 customers who it alleged had illegally download the film ‘Kill the Irishman’. The company plans to write to the customers offering them the opportunity to settle the matter out of court – or, it is believed, it would take legal action. Movie Rights Group also plans to seek the details of individuals who had downloaded other films, as part of an ongoing effort.

In an emailed response, EFA board member Kimberley Heitman said the organisation was “concerned” that a content owner was pursuing individuals through the courts, warning similar prosecutions overseas had resulted in “huge costs and disproportionate punishment for those convicted of non-commercial copyright infringement”.

“Repeated incidence of mistaken identity, especially over shared IP address, have compounded other injustices associated with the full force of Federal law being applied in domestic circumstances,” added Heitman. He noted resolving norms of copyright law enforcement in the digital age was “more properly the subject for decisions by Parliament than the courts”.

Pirate Party Australia secretary Rodney Serkowski said his organisation was also concerned about the issue.

“This is just another manifestation of the structural imbalance of current copyright laws, and how they are being misappropriated in order to shakedown an entire generation sharing culture, information and knowledge. It’s complete madness,” Serkowski said. “These sorts of predatory lawsuits are completely unwelcome in Australia. The tactic of pressuring individuals to settle allegations of copyright infringement out of court, as we have seen in the UK and US, can only be described as extortion.”

Pirate Party acting secrtary Brendan Molloy said organisations who engaged in legal action against fans of their content should question whether their allegiance was to art, or just “fat profits”; pointing out that it was near impossible to find a musician who had not downloaded, burned or taped music themselves. “Suing fans for the same would be hypocrisy at the highest level,” he said.

Fellow acting secretary Simon Frew said so-called “copyright trolls” had been operating in the US and Europe for the past few years, but this was the first Australia had seen of the approach. He added that content owners in the US had actually backed away from directly suing those downloading their content after a “serious consumer backlash”. “Australia has a less litigious culture than the US and would be likely to provoke an even fiercer response from the victims of these shakedowns,” said Frew.

Movie Rights Group said in a statement that it was not its intention or role to pass comment on the views espoused by either the EFA or the Pirate Party Australia.

The online copyright infringement issue has come to the fore over the past few years due to the ongoing court case between ISP iiNet and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft. Movie Rights Group maintains no links with AFACT, but the two are engaged in similar activities in speaking to Australian ISPs about online copyright infringement.

It is believed that Move Rights Group’s approach to ISPs is deeply informed by the initial judgements in iiNet’s fight against AFACT. Although iiNet successfully defended the trial and its appeal, a number of commenters believed the judgement did open the door for the film industry to achieve more success through approaching ISPs with a modified approach. For example, industry sources said Movie Rights Group will carefully target those it sends letters to — excluding public locations such as schools and libraries from its efforts — and even offer to compensate ISPs for the time it will take them to retrieve user details.


  1. “and even offer to compensate ISPs for the time it will take them to retrieve user details.”

    About time. For too long, ISP’s have been expected to open peoples data files for free.
    Now of course, without any Freedom of Information Act amendments being necessary, (because of course, there is no crime more heinous than “file sharing”,) ISP’s for thirty pieces of silver can become the bad guys.
    I think that the smarter Service Providers will weigh up the long term customer loss implications of immediately complying with requests for private user information. This of course will probably result in anti subpoena injunctive relief being sought.

    $100* per discovery request versus customers $59.95 per month subscription for the next ten years.
    Of course, with the way that injunctions favour the party with the most to lose, MRG will obviously need substantially deep pockets if every ISP injunctively challenge each and every request.

    The courts should also be starting to become wary of the lack of activity against the biggest player, Telstra. Because of Bigpond’s dominance of the Internet, the majority of file sharing obviously occurs on that network.

    Attempting to extort money from the easy targets (iiNet) appears to be a growing meme. Of course, I am sure few understood or expected the resilience or backbone of Michael Malone.
    Aussies (especially Irish Aussies) do not like to be stood over and bullies of any colour, creed or nationality are usually given short shift.

    So at half time, I think the score is ISP’s = 10 million subscribing customers
    AFACT and assoc. entities = (minus) -(34?) million litigation costs.

    I doubt that MRG will be able to convince either the courts or the Australian Service Providers to play their game.


  2. Lesson here… if you’re going to download a movie, download one that lots of people are going to download.. these 9000 people are probably the only people in Australia who wanted to watch ‘Kill the Irishman’ ;)

  3. But…ISPs assign IP addresses dynamically, and the MAC address at destination is not the original source MAC, it’s from the last-hop…so how do you know these people were the people who downloaded the movie?
    (Basically your IP only stays your IP while you’re online; when you go offline, your ISP returns your IP to its IP ‘pool’ and someone else might get it. And then some little old lady in a country town gets sued over something she didn’t even do. And I don’t think static addressing by ISPs will ever catch on for home consumers, it’s easier to do it dynamically. And there are very few other ways to identify which computer downloaded what beyond MAC and IP address. And don’t even start me on whether the owner or user of a computer is responsible for what is on it…)

    • you do understand the concept of time stamping right? ISPs would have logs for who had what IP at what time. Which negates your whole comment.

      • Timestamping negates only one of his comments. Still doesn’t stop the fact that identifying a user’s IP address being used to access the internet doesn’t identify the actual computer being used (as long as the user’s computer is sitting behind a NAT router).

        Running a router with wifi, especially without encryption will also add an additional layer of plausible deniability.

        Bottom line is, I’d be surprised (and alarmed) if anyone could be convicted of anything with the ISP assigned IP alone…

        • It is not about being able to actually convict people:
          “The company plans to write to the customers offering them the opportunity to settle the matter out of court – or, it is believed, it would take legal action.”.

          They believe a certain amount of people will simply settle – this becomes very likely the dodgier the movie title – porn titles are perfect.
          People do not want to be named in a lawsuit – and may well pay the $3000 (seams to be the going rate in the US) just to make the matter go away.
          If they manage to get 2000 of the 9000 people to ‘settle’ out of court, that is a quick $6 million for them. Probably more than this movie would have ever made anyway.

          This is a money making venture.
          No one wants to be dragged through the courts for anything – and many will settle – even if they didn’t even do the crime.
          This is wrong – but that is the way it is.
          I can sue you for anything – even if you didn’t do it. It should certainly fail if you didn’t do it – but in the meantime I have caused you to waste your time and stress. And if the case is embarrising enough – you might just settle so it doesn’t become public.

  4. How would you like it if the council made a shopping center pay for the all cost of policing of council owned parking spots located near a shopping center, and then the council sends out 1 million dollar fines to people who park illegally.. What justice is it in there.. if your really making 1million per person you catch you must should pay for all the cost in pursing it yourself not the burden on other parties.

    • Problem is they can’t legally obtain the IP address details without going through the ISP’s thus creating this issue

  5. Given the timing, one wonders if this isn’t a gun that is also pointed at our politicians heads – an unpopular move as a warning to the gubernment to hurry up and resolve AFACT’s complaints before nearly everyone in this country is tagged as a criminal (again).

    • If nearly everyone in the country would be made a criminal, then clearly the law needs to be changed since it does not reflect community standards

  6. Bunch of trolls.

    I’ve read some of the stories coming out of the US, where the courts are finally beginning to stop this digging for dirt. The lawyers get a list of names of people who “possibly” downloaded something, and write them a letter saying pay us $2,000 or we’ll chase $20,000 in court. Most people can’t afford to get a lawyer to defend themselves, so just pay up.

    There’s no intent to take people to court en masse, given that the companies would then have to prove who exactly did the downloading. There’s also very little recourse for the individual who gets caught up in this scam (in the States, some of these were dead at the time of the alleged downloading).

  7. if they cant find the “movie” or file in your home how can they prove you dled it? could you not say you must have been hacked somehow or maybe your wireless didn’t have security how can they possibly get you for it by just an ip it means Fk all

  8. “and even offer to compensate ISPs for the time it will take them to retrieve user details. ”

    This is a furphy – any court issuing the subpoena would accept (and almost certainly grant) an ISP’s application to get reimbursed for their work!

    “If you are not a party in the proceeding and you will incur substantial loss or expense in properly complying with the subpoena, you may apply to the Court (in writing) for an order that the party who has issued the subpoena pay you an amount (in addition to the conduct money) in respect of the loss or expense. If you wish to make such an application, you must, before complying with the subpoena, give notice to the issuing party that substantial loss or expense would be incurred in properly complying with the subpoena, including an estimate of the loss or expense.”

  9. The ISPS will reject the request and that will be that. The only time an ISP will provide the information is via a court order.

    The claimant must submit to a Court that these 9,000 people have breached copyright and therefore in order to submit claims against them they require personal information of those accused.

    I would shit a brick if my ISP was giving my details out based on some bullshit report that a bunch of copyright trolls produced.

    Seriously what’s to stop me from doing a similar report from my torrents, registering a copyright troll like company and then get an ISP to give me all those peoples personal details.

    oh wait, that’s right, the fricken Law will stop me.

  10. “I also do not accept iiNet’s construction of the phrase “accounts of repeat infringers”. Only customers or subscribers have accounts. Persons who use an iiNet service will be either the customer or a person whom the customer has allowed to use their service. A carriage service provider can terminate a customer’s account. A carriage service provider cannot prevent a customer from allowing a person to use the customer’s service. A carriage service provider also cannot know whether the user of the service is the customer or a person the customer allowed to use the customer’s service. This is the context in which condition 1 of item 1 of s 116AH(1) was formulated. In this context it is irrational to construe the condition as requiring the carriage service provider to adopt a policy that deals only with an account holder who is themselves a repeat infringer. The condition requires a policy dealing with termination of the “accounts of repeat infringers”. In context, this must mean accounts in respect of which repeat infringements have occurred.”

    Crap crap crap, this is from the iinet case, and could be used as precident, but even worse, the magistrate didn’t consider open wireless or hacked connections.

  11. From their website:

    Collections & Settlements – The entire process is overseen by our legal team who assist in managing collections and settlements, again, to maximise your income.

    maximise your income eh? that sounds like speak ‘for your movie was a flop? why dont you try squeezing the general public.”

  12. I think there will be a massive backlash here as these sort of actions bring up prices ultimately and piss people off.

    Hey you BASTARDS why dont you make an aussie service just like netflx? 5-10$/month MAXIMUM for UNLIMITED MOVIES AND TV SHOW streams/downloads.

    Do that and i’ll sign up and never torrent movies again, why would i when i can stream heaps of movies easily, freely and fast.

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