The Federal Court ruling is a landmark win for copyright holders in a country which has a reputation for being home to some of the world’s most prolific internet pirates.
Justice Nye Perram granted a discovery order sought by the 2013 film’s copyright owner Dallas Buyers Club LLC to access names and home addresses of over 4,700 Australian internet account holders.
However, he said the privacy of the internet users should also be protected by court orders that have yet to be decided. These orders would prevent the film owners from making the personal details public.
Any letter that the film’s owner intended to send to those users demanding compensation for movie piracy would also need to be signed off by the judge.
Dallas Buyers Club LLC and its parent company Voltage Pictures LLC targeted six Australian internet service providers — iiNet, Internode, Dodo, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks — when they sought personal details associated with more than 4,700 internet protocol, addresses that were allegedly used to share Dallas Buyers Club using BitTorrent.
The companies opposed the application at a hearing in February, citing concerns the film-makers could intimidate subscribers with “speculative invoicing” — a strategy that involves sending intimidating letters threatening legal action and seeking large sums of money for breach of copyright.