Company behind ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ launches lawsuit against unknown Louisiana resident, alleging piracy of movie

Dallas Buyers Club, a limited liability company behind the 2013 major motion picture of the same name, has filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against an unknown defendant in Louisiana.

Filed on Feb. 22, the lawsuit alleges the defendant, identified simply as Doe-174.64.14.54, illegally reproduced and distributed the copyrighted motion picture, Dallas Buyers Club, through the peer-to-peer filed technology protocol BitTorrent.

The limited liability company says it owns the rights to the film, which it alleges has become one of the most trafficked films in the BitTorrent network. Pierre V. Miller II, an attorney representing the plaintiff, says as far as he’s aware the lawsuit is the first of its kind filed in the Middle District of Louisiana, but similar lawsuits have been filed in other jurisdictions though the United States.

“There is a huge problem with people stealing copyrighted material, including motion pictures,” says Miller, co-founding partner of Patrick Miller LLC in New Orleans. There will be more lawsuits filed, he says.

Most recently, Dallas Buyers Club LLC reportedly abandoned an appeal earlier this month against an Australian Internet service provider to obtain the identities of 4,726 customers who allegedly illegally downloaded the movie. An Australian court ruling stymied the LLC from engaging in the practice of “speculative invoicing,” a practice that involves sending alleged violators invoices demanding payments under the threat of legal action.

The lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge claims the movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner has been illegally downloaded and distributed countless times worldwide with “many confirmed instances of infringing activity traced to Louisiana.”

It describes “Doe” as a prolific proponent of advancing the BitTorrent economy of piracy and charges that the defendant intentionally participated in a BitTorrent “swarm” in which numerous people engaged in mass copyright infringement of the motion picture.

“As noted by Senator Levin in Congressional hearings on peer-to-peer Internet piracy, ‘In the world of copyright law, taking someone’s intellectual property is a serious offense, punishable by large fines,’” the lawsuit reads. “‘In the real world, violations of copyright law over the Internet are so widespread and easy to accomplish that many participants seem to consider it equivalent to jaywalking—illegal but no big deal. But it is a big deal.’”

Miller says illegal downloads essentially take money out of the pockets of producers and others who work to create the film.

“The enforcement of intellectual property rights and in particular the fight against counterfeiting and piracy are critical issues of importance to the citizens of Louisiana and the United States,” the lawsuit reads.

The suit confirms the defendant in the case resides within the Middle District of Louisiana, but provides no further specifics. The district includes Ascension, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee and St. Helena parishes.

The plaintiff acknowledges in court filings that, despite its best attempts, it has been unable to identify the defendant by name. But it says the use of geolocation technology helped trace the defendant’s approximate location at the time of the download to somewhere within the Middle District.

Miller says the next step is to obtain the alleged offender’s name by subpoenaing the Internet service provider. According to the lawsuit, the provider is Cox Communications, which issued the defendant’s Internet protocol, or IP, address. The IP address can be used to determine the person or entity’s identity, and Miller says the process could take anywhere between 30 to 45 days. 

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff is demanding a jury trial, permanent injunction against the defendant, statutory damages, reasonable costs and attorney fees.

—Alexandria Burris

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