NEW ORLEANS – Dallas Buyers Club was one of 2013’s most acclaimed films, earning three Academy Awards and widespread critical acclaim, but the 1980s-set AIDS drama holds one distinction that its producers are decidedly not honored by: since its release, the film has been one of the most pirated on peer-to-peer sharing sites.
On Feb. 22, Dallas Buyers Club LLC—which produced the film—filed a lawsuit against an unidentified Louisiana resident who allegedly copied and reproduced the film on the peer-to-peer sharing site BitTorrent.
Pierre V. Miller II, the attorney representing the film, describes the suit as an absolute necessity.
“It (piracy) is absolutely not a victimless crime,” Miller told Louisiana Record. “It affects lots of people all the way throughout the film industry—not just the people who produce the movies but also what they can afford to pay and who they can hire.”
Miller, the co-founding partner of Patrick Miller LLC in New Orleans, states that the alleged perpetrator has committed “a theft” and that his case will be treated as such. More than piracy lawsuits involving Dallas Buyers Club have already been filed across the country, but this is the first in Louisiana.
While the exact financial impact of piracy on the film has not been quantified, Miller says the losses Dallas Buyers Club has suffered are just a part of the estimated $18 billion piracy costs the film industry each year, according to a 2005 study by the Motion Picture Association.
The attorney cites a number of specific areas where piracy has had an adverse effect on film production, one of which is the hiring of top talent.
“More and more contracts are being signed … for base salaries plus a percentage of the movie (gross)," he said. "The finances are getting so tight from not only the competition but also the money that’s not realized… as a result of piracy.”
Miller notes, however, that consumers should not look to actors or directors as the primary victims of piracy, and instead to the below-the-line staff such as location scouts, costume designers, editors and makeup artists, who already receive low base salaries and are often most hurt by piracy-caused budget cuts.
Piracy has had such a pernicious effect of film production, Miller asserts, that the very distribution of films has become increasingly difficult.
“It’s getting harder and harder to sell a picture to distributors … because distributors can’t make money off the movie when so many pirates are taking the movie without paying for it," he said.
He also notes that Louisiana, which has become a popular site of film production thanks to substantial tax credits, risks losing thousands of in-state jobs due to piracy. Dallas Buyers Club was filmed in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Dallas Buyers Club LLC’s current action only pertains to one defendant, who the suit refers to by their Internet protocol address as “Doe-188.8.131.52.” Miller has filed a subpoena for Cox Communications, the Internet service provider behind the individual, to obtain the individual’s identity, and says he fully intends to pursue other piracy claims throughout the state.
He hopes his suit encourages other producers to pursue similar litigation in order to protect their intellectual property from piracy, noting the film industry as a whole could “do more” to address the issue.
He says he wants his case to send a message to pirates that “what they’re doing is stealing,” and that it affects real people.
“(Piracy's) a serious matter, and the results of this lawsuit are going to be serious," Miller said.