Posts tagged ‘Voltage Pictures’

TorrentFreak: Media Must Protect Dallas Buyers Club’s Innocent Victims

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

papersDealing with people who receive threatening letters from so-called copyright trolls can be a draining experience. On the one hand there are those who are arrogant about their offending (and that’s their prerogative) but it’s the innocent parties that make things so difficult.

For at least seven years TorrentFreak has been receiving sometimes heartbreaking emails from people who just don’t know where to turn. Most received aggressive cash demands to make supposed lawsuits go away and some were threatened with the loss of their homes if they didn’t pay up.

These are multi-million dollar corporations bullying the little man simply because they can, and it’s a horrible thing to behold.

This week, in what can only be described as a massive effort by the Australian press, dozens of outlets informed us that U.S.-based Voltage Pictures had won its case against ISPs including iiNet. This means that close to 5,000 Aussies will shortly receive letters demanding cash settlements and all the misery they entail.

Many publications did note a positive, however. In a move designed to limit Voltage’s ability to abuse the vulnerable, Justice Perram stated the following:

“Having regard to the likely identity of many account holders and their potential vulnerability to what may appear to be abusive practices I propose to impose conditions on [Voltage Pictures] that will prevent speculative invoicing,” he wrote.

This means that Voltage will be required to send a draft of the letter it intends to send to alleged downloaders for the Judge to approve. Sadly, no matter how well intentioned, this ‘safeguard’ will likely do absolutely nothing to change the outcome or business model of this notorious copyright troll.

As pointed out by Justice Perram in his ruling, the same approach was ordered in Golden Eye (International) Ltd v Telefonica UK Ltd [2012], another trolling case in the UK. Judicial oversight in that case stopped Golden Eye from citing any precise monetary claim whatsoever in their initial letter, thus removing their ‘invoicing’ value.

While great in theory, no subsequent correspondence was monitored by the court and the topic of money was raised immediately after the court turned its back. The same thing also happened in the recent case involving a company called Mircom. As required, no money was claimed in the initial letter but as soon as people wrote back, all protestations of innocence were ignored and cash demands were forthcoming alongside threats of financial ruin.

Make no mistake, the Speculative Invoice WILL come to Australia. Justice Perram (for all his good intentions) has just delayed it by one envelope, at most. It’s possible he will read this piece and decide to do more, but it’s unlikely.

So, presuming no further protection will be forthcoming from the Federal Court, the responsibility for looking after the interests of the innocent – and there will be plenty of them – will fall into the laps of the only people with the power to bring this under control – the ladies and gentlemen of the media.

Aussie publications large and small need to step up to the mark, listen to the people being targeted and tell their stories. Sure, some will have brought this on themselves, but there will be others – such as account holders identified as infringers merely by virtue of them paying the Internet bill – who will have done absolutely nothing wrong. They deserve a voice.

It’s also worth noting that Voltage has indicated awareness over potential negative media coverage but take those comments with two large pinches of salt. This company knows exactly what it’s doing and in the United States they have had a very easy ride, no matter who they sued. That easy ride has only encouraged them to expand elsewhere, including Europe, Australia and more recently, Singapore.

That said, Voltage are not immune from criticism. Their claims – that they will not target the one time downloader, those on welfare, the disabled, or those in the military – should be closely monitored, and when they wrongfully pressure innocent account holders to give up the identities of those around them so that they can be pursued too, the public should hear about these tactics.

Their inevitable demands for many hundreds, possibly several thousands of dollars from regular citizens based on mere allegations that have never been taken to a fully contested trial, should be publicized too.

But the people can’t do this alone, they need the assistance of an inquisitive and persistent media determined to monitor Voltage’s behavior every step of the way. It won’t be pretty and there will be plenty of misdirection, but allow this company free reign in Australia and they will be only the first of many trolls to land Down Under.

There’s no question that copyright holders should have the ability to protect their content, but trolling is a business that only thrives because of its success in intimidating the weak and vulnerable. Any company engaged in these practices that claims otherwise is taking us all for fools, and should be held to account – publicly and in print.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Aussies Set For 200,000 Piracy Notices Per Year Under New Code

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Just 24 hours ago Australia was abuzz with the news that U.S.-based Voltage Pictures will now be allowed to launch a so-called ‘speculative invoicing’ scheme Down Under.

The company will obtain the names of people behind ISP accounts linked to the unlawful sharing of their works online and pursue them for cash settlements. It’s a business model with a grubby reputation, one that mainstream rightsholders have largely steered away from in recent years.

Instead, the world’s largest entertainment companies are focusing their efforts on schemes designed to educate citizens, those in Australia included, in the hope that they will voluntarily change their online media consumption habits.

The local result is today’s publication of ‘Industry Code C653:2015, Copyright Notice Scheme’(pdf), the anti-piracy framework hammered out by telecoms companies and key entertainment industry companies including ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Foxtel, Music Rights Australia, News Corporation and Village Roadshow.

A draft was presented in February but today’s paper represents its final form following more than 370 public submissions.

While there have been some tweaks and clarifications, the majority of the core policies outlined in the earlier publication remain the same. ISPs providing fixed access services to 1,000 account holders or more will take part, which amounts to roughly 70 local service providers.

Vision

According to telecoms body the Communications Alliance, the scheme will have “a strong emphasis on public education” and does not contain “explicit sanctions against internet users”. While it does have ‘teeth’ (we’ll come to that shortly), informing subscribers comes first.

Notices

The three-step notice process remains, with account holders receiving ‘educational’, ‘warning’ and then ‘final’ notices each subsequent time their IP addresses are connected to infringing activity online. Only users of P2P systems such as BitTorrent are affected.

“Any Account Holder who receives three Notices within a 12 month period will have the option to seek a review conducted by an independent Adjudication Panel,” the paper reads.

Appeals against notices, consumer protection

One significant change is the elimination of a fee if a subscriber feels he or she has been wrongly issued with a notice. While subscribers can appeal against any notice, so-called ‘Challenge Notices’ can only be sent to the adjudication panel upon receipt of a ‘Final’ notice.

Rightsholders will pick up the tab on appeals for now but if any abuse of the appeal process is observed, fees could be reintroduced.

There will also be “stronger consumer representation” on the Copyright Information Panel, the body that will oversee the notice scheme and operate the website setup to educate the public.

The sting in the tail

There are no disconnections or suspensions for subscribers who don’t get the message after three warnings but the scheme does have a potentially tougher lesson up its sleeve.

By accommodating a ‘facilitated preliminary discovery’ process, ISPs will be expected to assist (not challenge) copyright holders who decide to take legal action against persistent infringers.

“Where an Account Holder has received three Notices within a 12 month period and a Rights Holder files an application for preliminary discovery in a prescribed court seeking access to the Account Holder’s details, ISPs will act reasonably in relation to the preliminary discovery application,” the paper reads.

“It remains a matter for the Court to decide whether preliminary discovery should be granted. An Account Holder’s details will not be provided by ISPs to Rights Holders in the absence of a court order.”

Notice volume and who will pay

Considering that the issue of costs has been derailing anti-piracy discussion between ISPs and rightsholders for many years, the speed at which this code has been agreed after government issued an ultimatum last year is somewhat surprising.

However, it appears that who will pay is not only still undecided, but could also remain a secret even when it is.

“There are still some commercial details, including elements of the scheme funding arrangements, to be finalized and the finished product must meet the approval of the ACMA,” says Communication Alliance CEO, John Stanton.

The current agreement allows for up to 200,000 notices to be processed and sent by all ISPs during each 12 months of the scheme’s operation. However, if rightsholders subsequently deem that number to be insufficient to achieve their objectives, further financial negotiations can take place with ISPs with a view to them sending more.

“Any funding arrangements must be designed to ensure that smaller ISPs are not unduly burdened by the requirements of the scheme,” the code adds.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority will now consider whether to register the code. Once put into place, the effectiveness of the scheme will independently evaluated 18 months after launch.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: iiNet loses Dallas Buyers Club Piracy Case

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

dallasBack in 2012, the Australian High Court ruled that ISP iiNet was not responsible for the copyright infringements of its customers. Stymied by that ruling, many Australian file-sharers breathed a sigh of relief, as Antipodean users are usually amongst the last to get content, forgotten in the long-tail of media distribution.

Conversely, it also meant that they were one of the last English-speaking (and English common-law) countries to see the appearance of so-called ‘Speculative Invoicing’, more commonly known as copyright trolling. However, “Down Under” couldn’t escape forever, and eventually the trolls washed up on the shore, in the shape of mega-troll “Dallas Buyers Club” (DBC).

The model should be familiar to most of our readers. A company (or its representative) joins a BitTorrent swarm, and “observes” a number of peers on the torrent. It then applies for a court order for the ISP to hand over the identities behind all those IP addresses so they can be pressured for cash settlement.

The big question was whether the Australian courts would allow for the discovery of subscriber details but in a decision released just minutes ago the courts said ‘yes’. Letters to be sent out to the 4,726 consumers involved will first have to be approved by the court, a move designed to reduce DBC’s ability to overstate the case and the potential penalties involved.

Following a similar ruling in Canada last February, this is the second time these kinds of restrictions have been placed on Dallas Buyers Club/Voltage Pictures. UK ‘trolls’ are also subjected to the same oversight in their initial letters to consumers but subsequent correspondence flies completely under the radar with no court involvement.

In today’s case the judge also ruled that the privacy of the 4726 accounts should be protected but placed no cap on damages. The precise restrictions and justifications will become clear when the verdict is published later today.

The case comes amid growing regulations, with the Australian Government pushing for a voluntary 3-strikes system as well as site-blocking legislation. These two things, combined with today’s ruling, means that VPN use is expected to skyrocket in Australia.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: ISP Teksavvy Appeals in Hurt Locker Piracy Case

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

After numerous experiments elsewhere, notably in the US, two years ago Voltage Pictures took its turn piracy-into-profit business model to Canada.

The company’s targets were 2,000 Internet subscribers at local ISP Teksavvy. The early stages of the case saw the ISP dig in its heels while bringing on board the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) with the aim of protecting consumers from potentially large fines.

While CIPPIC was allowed to intervene, the subscribers’ identities were ordered to be handed over and with that in hand the arguments turned to who would have to pay for proceedings thus far.

Needless to say, Voltage Pictures’ and Teksavvy’s assessments were at the opposite ends of the spectrum, with the former saying that should it pay around $884.00 and the latter claiming a few hundred thousand dollars, $346,480.68 to be exact.

In the event the court rejected both sides’ claims, but the ruling was far away from Teksavvy’s expectations. The Federal Court told Voltage to pay $21,557 – $17,057 in technical administrative costs plus $4,500 in legal fees – associated with the IP-address lookups.

After being awarded just 6% of its original claim, it comes as little surprise that the ISP has now filed an appeal against the decision.

Teksavvy says that Prothonotary Aronovitch’s decision to disallow the large majority of its claim was flawed in that it was “based upon a wrong principle, an error of law and/or misapprehensions of the fact that cannot reasonably be supported by the evidence.”

Outlining its case, the ISP says that Prothonotary Aronovitch improperly interpreted the scope of an earlier decision by Prothonotary Aalto concerning Norwich order (disclosure order) jurisprudence, including the nature of costs to which an innocent third-party respondent (Teksavvy in this case) is entitled.

The ISP further asserts that Prothonotary Aronovitch relied on “irrelevant jurisprudence” to justify excluding Teksavvy’s costs and disallowing costs on the basis they amounted to the “costs of doing business.”

In support of several other complaints and claims, Teksavvy demands a four-hour hearing to outline why it should achieve the following:

– An order which awards Teksavvy “reasonable legal costs, administrative costs and disbursements” or an amount the Court deems “just and appropriate”

– An order which awards Teksavvy its costs in the previous hearing before Prothonotary Aronovitch

– An award for the costs of this appeal, plus any “further and other relief” the court might deem “just”

Commenting on Teksavvy’s decision to appeal, copyright lawyer Howard Knopf says that the ISP’s earlier decision to “take no position” on the original Voltage disclosure application may have cost the company dearly.

“This appears to have been a key factor in the Federal Court’s refusal to reward TekSavvy and its counsel with almost $180,000 in legal fees,” Knopf writes.

“Ironically, if TekSavvy had actually opposed Voltage’s motion, it may well have been in a much better position to successfully seek costs. Prothonotary Aronovitch cites [a similar case] where two the ISPs actively opposed the disclosure motion. In that case, the Court ultimately denied the motion but awarded the costs of the motion to the third-party ISPs who had opposed it.”

So while the parties battle it out under appeal, there is still the matter of the consumers who are expecting a letter through the post from Voltage Pictures. Those letters still haven’t gone out and before they do so their content much be approved by the court. While that may offer recipients some protection, the end game is almost guaranteed – demands for some kind of cash settlement to avoid supposed legal action.

And according to Voltage counsel James Zibarras, that be could more costly than people might have been led to believe.

Discussions thus far have indicated that statutory damages in such cases sit at $5,000. However, Zibarras says that plaintiffs can also opt for actual damages instead. These take into consideration damages caused by those who distribute content as well as upload, he says.

“And this is the thing, the people that Voltage goes after… technically aren’t downloaders. What Voltage goes after is people that make their product available for upload,” Zibarras says.

“Once you switch to actual [damages], then there’s no cap, it’s whatever we can prove.”

While that assertion is refuted by lawyer Howard Knopf, one thing is for certain. Voltage certainly sees dollar signs in this action and it’s not going to be giving up anytime soon.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Exposing Canadian Pirates Costs $11 Per IP-Address

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

hurt-locker-lawMore than two years ago movie studio Voltage Pictures took its legal crusade against pirating BitTorrent users to Canada.

After targeting tens of thousands of people in the US, the company hoped to expose 2,000 Internet subscribers of Canadian ISP TekSavvy. The studio behind “The Hurt Locker” argued that they have a solid case under the Copyright Act.

The efforts led to objections from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) who demanded safeguards so Voltage wouldn’t demand hefty fines from subscribers without oversight. The court agreed on this, but allowed the customers to be exposed.

The only matter that remained were the costs associated with identifying the alleged pirates. According to Voltage these would only be a few hundred Canadian dollars, but Teksavvy claimed more that $350,000.

This week the Federal Court ruled on the matter (pdf), settling the costs at $21,557. This includes $17,057 in technical administrative costs and $4,500 in legal fees associated with the IP-address lookups.

The total sum translates to roughly $11 per IP-address, which is a tiny fraction of the thousands of dollars in settlements Voltage usually requests.

The Court decided not to award any assessment costs, noting that both parties are intent on disparaging each other’s business practices. Taking claims from both sides into account it concluded that neither party should be rewarded for its conduct.

“TekSavvy, without justification, has greatly exaggerated its claim, while Voltage has unreasonably sought to trivialize it based on unreliable and largely irrelevant evidence,” Judge Aronovitch writes.

In the future it would be wise to agree on a fixed rate for linking IP-addresses to the personal details of subscribers before taking the matter to court, the Judge further notes.

“The best practice, in my view, would be for the rights holder to ascertain, in advance, with clarity and precision, the method of correlation used by the ISP, as well as the time and costs attendant on the execution of the work based, to begin, on a hypothetical number of IP addresses.”

The verdict opens the door for more of these cases in Canada. The question is, however, whether the costs and the restrictions still make it worthwhile.

University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, who followed the case closely, believes this troll-type activity may not be as financially viable as Voltage has hoped.

“With the cap on liability for non-commercial infringement, the further costs of litigating against individuals, the actual value of the works, and the need to obtain court approval on demand letters, it is hard to see how this is a business model that works,” Geist notes.

Voltage, however, appears to be determined to continue its actions against the subscribers. The studio’s lawyer is happy with the verdict and says the decision “confirms the court’s commitment to facilitate anti-piracy and allow companies like Voltage to pursue pirates.”

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Voltage Pics: Suing Disabled Kids For Piracy is Bad PR

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Movie company Voltage Pictures has built quite a reputation in the past couple of years for its approach to those said to have downloaded and shared The Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club without permission.

Rather than take the soft approach, the company has sued thousands of individuals across the United States and has also tested the waters in Canada, Europe and Australia.

Litigation in the latter region is reaching a critical point, with Voltage affiliate Dallas Buyers Club LLC (DBCLLC) attempting to force several local ISPs (iiNet, Wideband Networks, Internode, Dodo Services, Amnet Broadband and Adam Internet) to hand over the identities of individuals said to have downloaded the movie of the same name.

The ISPs have been putting up a fight in Sydney’s Federal Court this week in order to protect their customers and thus far DBCLLC and their piracy tracking partners have been given a rocky ride.

Flown in from Germany especially for the hearing, Daniel Macek of BitTorrent monitoring outfit Maverick Eye was given a particularly hard time. On Monday under cross-examination by iiNet barrister Richard Lancaster, SC, the 30-year-old admitted that he did not prepare his own affidavit.

“It was provided [by Dallas Buyers Club],” Mr Macek said.

Since Macek was appearing as an expert witness, the revelation was pounced upon by Lancaster.

“You provide affidavits and statements in lots of litigations all around the world,” Mr Lancaster said. “Is it your practice just to sign what is put in front of you?”

“No,” Macek replied.

During yesterday’s hearing things only appeared to get worse for Macek, as both his expertise and Maverick Eye’s evidence was called into question. The company provided “.pcap” files to the Court which contained timestamps of alleged infringements but when questioned about their contents, Macek fell short.

“Are you familiar with the information in the .pcap files themselves?” Lancaster asked Macek.

“Not in detail,” Macek admitted.

Lancaster’s questioning was aimed at casting doubt on the timings of alleged infringements logged in the Maverick Eye system. Were the times logged in the .pcap files representative of when a file was uploaded by an infringer’s computer to Maverick Eye’s system, or of a later point when further processing had occurred?

“I don’t understand this .pcap [file] in this detail,” Macek said. “I know how the Maverick software works in general but I’m not aware of the .pcap [files],” he added.

The Judge agreed with Lancaster on the importance of his questioning.

“If the IP [address] switched midway through one of these transmissions it just occurs to me that change would have some impact on your cross-examination,” Justice Perram said.

Also appearing this week was Vice-president of royalties for Voltage Pictures, Michael Wickstrom. The Voltage executive said that piracy was eating away at his company’s profits and had become far too easy. Lawsuits helped raise awareness of the problem, he said.

Under cross-examination Wednesday, Wickstrom denied that the letters sent out to customers in the United States were “threatening”, noting instead that they are a statement of facts.

“There are facts stated [in the letter] that [the customer’s] IP address was identified [as having downloaded the film illicitly],” he said.

“Any settlement amount that is disclosed [in the letter]; that was the attorney’s decision and is done on a case by case basis.”

However, while the company has no real idea of the nature of the people they’re targeting, Wickstrom said his company had limits on who would be pursued for cash demands. According to SMH, the executive said that his company “would not pursue an autistic child, people who were handicapped, welfare cases, or people that have mental issues.”

Some compassion from Voltage perhaps? Not exactly – the company seems more interested in how that would look on the PR front.

“That kind of press would ruin us,” Wickstrom said, adding that “the majority” of piracy was in fact occurring at the hands of vulnerable groups.

If that’s truly the case and any “vulnerable” people inform the company of their circumstances, Voltage stands to make very little money from their Australian venture, despite all the expense incurred in legal action thus far. Strangely, they don’t seem to mind.

“This is truly not about the money here, it’s about stopping illegal piracy,” Wickstrom said.

The case continues next week.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and anonymous VPN services.