The movie studio behind the movie Dallas Buyers Club continues to hunt alleged copyright infringers in the United States. In a new court filing the company explains the measures it takes identify the true pirates. As part of this strategy the filmmakers want the court to grant two hour depositions of Internet subscribers whose connections were used to pirate the film.
The makers of Dallas Buyers Club have sued hundreds of BitTorrent users over the past year.
Many of these cases end up being settled for an undisclosed amount. This usually happens after the filmmakers obtain the identity of the Internet account holder believed to have pirated the movie.
Not all alleged downloaders are eager to pay up though. In fact, many don’t respond to the settlement letters they receive or claim that someone else must have downloaded the film using their connection.
In a recent court filing (pdf) at a Washington District Court the filmmakers explain the efforts they undertake to ensure that the right person is accused. This includes gathering information from Facebook, LinkedIn and even Google Maps.
“Google address mapping and county records were investigated to confirm ownership/rental status of and residence at the property associated with the IP address, as well as observe the physical makeup and layout of the house and neighborhood to anticipate possible claims that a wireless signal was highjacked by someone outside of the residence,” the filmmakers explain.
The router security settings and download history of a specific connection are used as additional pieces of information to ensure that the alleged copyright infringements are systematic.
“Further, given the standard security measures imposed by ISPs to prevent unauthorized use of an IP address, the volume of piracy demonstrated over the extended observation period could not be the result of someone driving by, a temporary house guest or a hacker sitting in a car on the street.”
While the methods above are already quite invasive, Dallas Buyers Club now aims to take it up a notch.
In order to pinpoint the true pirates the movie studio wants to depose 15 account holders. This means that they will have to testify under oath for up to two hours and face a grilling from the studio’s legal team.
This is the first time that we’ve seen a request for a deposition in a Dallas Buyers Club case. Needless to say, a testimony under oath can be quite intimidating, and is highly unusual in these type of cases.
The account holders of IP-addresses linked to the pirated downloads have already been identified by the ISP. However, they failed to respond to the movie studio or denied that they had shared the film illegally.
Through a testimony under oath, the movie studio hopes to identify the true pirates, so they can be named in the lawsuit.
“DBC believes that further discovery is warranted to confirm which of any possible occupants of the physical address assigned the infringing IP address is the proper Doe defendant to be named in the case,” they note.
The filmmakers suspect that some of the subscribers are the actual infringers, but it’s possible that they’re covering for someone else, such as a roommate or spouse.
“A subscriber should not be allowed to shield, immunize and anonymize those they allow to use their Internet service from liability for intentional torts. The subscriber is the single best and perhaps only source of information as to the responsible party using its IP address.”
According to the filmmakers the depositions will result in a reduction of legal expenses while guaranteeing the anonymity of the defendants.
However, more critical observers may also note that it is an optimal tool to pressure ISP subscribers who choose to ignore settlement requests and other threats.
At the time of writing the court has yet to rule on the discovery request.