'I illegally downloaded Dallas Buyers Club. What now?'

So, you downloaded Dallas Buyers Club on a quiet night at home for the sole purpose of glimpsing Matthew McConaughey’s chiselled abs and now you’re wondering whether you’re going to jail? You’re not alone.

The long-threatened legal stance against rampant internet pirates has finally hit our shores, with the Federal Court delivering the blow that could put an end to free (and illegal) movies.

And we want to know, are we in trouble?

Not those kind of pirates… Screenshot: Captain Phillips

In the landmark judgment, the Court has ordered a number of Australian internet service providers to hand over the contact details of thousands of account holders who illegally shared the 2013 blockbuster so they can be pursued for compensation.

This means that around 4700 Aussie account holders are now nervously checking their mailboxes for a letter threatening legal action unless large sums are forked out for the copyright breach.

Related: Matthew McConaughey’s must-see prom photo

So, even more upsetting than discovering the movie you downloaded for some hard-core McConaughey-perving actually featured an emaciated scarecrow with a handlebar moustache instead, is the fear you may now be slapped with a fine of up to $9000.

The fear has sent many many Australians into a spin. They’ve got a lot of questions (namely, do I really have to pay $9000 for that shitty movie?) but and we have answers.

The money shot. Screenshot: Magic Mike.

If I downloaded Dallas Buyers Club, am I going to jail?

The good news.

It appears the ground-breaking ruling only applies to people who have been making the movie available for others to download, rather than just downloading it themselves (though that is still illegal, you naughty pirates!).

iiNet’s former chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, told Fairfax Media Hollywood studios would find it tough to prove exactly who downloaded the Academy Award winning film. “Remember that the letter is not proof and is only an allegation,” he said. “They can’t detect downloaders so if I downloaded it but never shared it I wouldn’t be concerned about it.”


Plus, the decision only requires iiNet, Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks to hand over customer details, so if you’re not with those providers, you’re all good (for now).

If you are targeted as a potential pirate (ahoy, matey!), there’s no need to shiver your timbers just yet.

It’s a pirate’s life for me. Screenshot: Captain Phillips.

In these relatively unchartered waters, experts are predicting account holders could defend the claims against them. Mr Dalby said innocent account holders with unsecured networks or a tendency to over-share their WiFi password could argue it was not them. He said while most agreements made the account holder responsible for its use, they were not obliged to secure their WiFi.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Netflix

Dr Michael Fraser, Director of the Communications Law Centre at Sydney’s University of Technology told rum-swigging Aussie pirates were unlikely to be hit with the hefty fines seen overseas and could get off with as little as a warning.

“As the judge has asked for those letters to be sent to him in draft form, it’s not possible that there will be excessive demands made in that letter like we’ve seen overseas,” Dr Fraser said. “It might just be a warning, it might be a demand for the price the film. But whatever it is it will send a strong warning and it does set a precedent. The days of pirating anonymously are over.”

And don’t forget, your trusty internet service providers still have 28 days to appeal the decision.

The take-away message here is if you do receive a letter in the snail mail, SEEK LEGAL ADVICE.


In the meantime, our unofficial, unsolicited and unreliable advice is to remove your eye patch, put up your peg leg and stick with Netflix, Foxtel or old school DVDs.