Internet security
Many teenagers turn to Google to search for “teenage-related” health information. Reuters/Samantha Sais

An Australian judge on Tuesday ordered Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to release the identity of thousands of users, whose internet connections were used to share the movie “Dallas Buyers Club” without authorization. The movie’s copyright owner Dallas Buyers Club LLC had applied for a “preliminary discovery” asking the ISPs to identify the users.

Justice Nye Perram granted the "discovery" order to identify over 4,700 Australian account holders, but said that their privacy should also be protected. The company cannot make the personal details of the account holders public, according to the judge's order.

Permissions to claim compensation for the piracy will be signed off by the judge. The ISPs had opposed the order stating that the filmmakers could threaten subscribers with so-called "speculative invoicing" that can be used to pressurize users with legal action and payment for copyright breach, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The decision is a landmark judgment for copyright holders in a country that is known to have a large number of Internet pirates.

"I will order the ISPs to divulge the names and physical addresses of the customers associated in their records with each of the 4,726 IP addresses," Perram said, according to AP, adding: "I will also impose a condition on the applicants that they are to submit to me a draft of any letter they propose to send to account holders associated with the IP addresses which have been identified.”

The case will be taken up in court again on April 21 and detailed orders will be given then. However, it was not clear if the ISPs will appeal the order. Perram is also expected to order Dallas Buyers Club to repay ISPs the cost of taking part in the case.

"By going through the process we've been able to ensure that our customers will be treated fairly and won't be subjected to the bullying that we have seen happen elsewhere," David Buckingham, the chief of iiNet, a local ISP, said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Buckingham also reportedly said he was pleased with the judgment because there were protections in place for the customers, but warned they could be sued due to the judgment.

Copyright holders' lawyer Michael Bradley, said, according to the AP: "The next step is identifying the users, and then what we do after that hasn't been decided," adding: "I don't know what impact it will have on piracy. Certainly, Australia is one of the jurisdictions with the highest rate of unauthorized downloading and this is a first step from a copyright owner to try to change that balance."