Movie Rights Group has, according to reports, contacted a number of Australian ISPs, asking for the details of customers based on IP addresses which it has obtained. The chief executive of a small ISP Exetel, John Linton, made the issue public on his blog.
(If you are not an Exetel customer you have to pay $20 to see the blog post - the money is is being sought to protect endangered wildlife. Exactly how one pays this amount is not clear despite trawling through the Exetel site.)
The trade deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has been negotiated in secret since March 2010. The US focus appears to be on the IP parts of the deal, a draft of which was leaked on the internet in February this year. The countries involved are the US, Peru, Malaysia, Australia, Chile, Vietnam, New Zealand, Brunei, and Singapore.
MRG represents Lightning Entertainment in the US and is seeking information on users who have allegedly downloaded the film, Kill the Irishman.
This is the first time that any group has taken the US approach of trying to frighten individual users into paying up in order to avoid legal action. It assumes additional significance in view of the fact that the appeal in the iiNet-AFACT case will be heard on December 1 and 2.
There has been an astonishing amount of emphasis placed on alleged copyright theft in a small country like Australia this year - in February the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft claimed that Australians were costing the film industry $1.37 billion by unauthorisedly downloading films from the internet.
Soon after that, along came another study, this having been commissioned for the Australian Content Industry Group, which put a figure of $900 million on all the downloaded content - films, music, video games, software etc.
And then, there was a third "study", claiming that while the music industry is making a lot of money, it "is not maximising digital music revenues mainly because of the amount of free music available online".
Each and every accusation provides fresh material for pushing for draconian legislation that will help US companies to increase their take; it assumes even more significance given the parlous state of the US economy.