Thousands of people who have illegally downloaded movies or
television shows from the Internet are nervously waiting to see if
they have been targeted in a crackdown on online piracy.
The move comes after the Federal Court ruled internet service
providers should hand over to a US film studio the names and
addresses of 4,726 customers who allegedly shared pirated copies of
the Oscar winning film Dallas Buyers Club. Ironically,
it's a film about blackmarket deals.
The decision means the Hollywood company now has the authority
to pursue thousands of Australian Internet account holders for
damages over the breaches of copyright.
Anneka Frayne, solicitor at Stacks Law Firm, says the decision
is likely to make hairs stand on end of anyone who has illegally
downloaded a film, TV show or songs.
"The decision has put everyone on notice that there are
real consequences to piracy and breaching copyright," she
said. "People need to know that taking copyrighted material
from the Internet such as a movie without paying for it can be
Ms Frayne pointed out that movies and TV shows like Game of
Thrones cost a lot of money to make. Fans who steal the
product without paying for it are taking money from the actors, set
workers and everyone involved in making the film.
"Imagine you have written a book or recorded your own song.
If people just take it without paying for it they are taking away
your livelihood. It is a criminal offence just like
She urged anyone who receives a letter from representatives of
the Dallas Buyers Club studio or other copyright holders
to seek their own legal advice. Owners of copyright can sue for
damages over copyright infringement.
There are moves afoot to strengthen anti-piracy laws even
further to include criminal penalties for some forms of copyright
infringement. Already there are potential five year jail terms for
"commercial scale" copyright infringement under the 2004
Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. Some experts say the wording on
the law is such that it might even apply to individuals who are
just sharing films online.
Anti-piracy groups are proposing a new 'three strikes'
policy under which account holders who break the law three times in
a 12 month period would be referred to copyright holders who could
take legal action.
"People should always be mindful of where you download your
films, music or other things that might be someone else's
intellectual property," Ms Frayne said.
"Always use legitimate downloading forums such as iTunes,
otherwise may be at risk of being sued. This is becoming a serious
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