It appears that Hollywood is branching out beyond suing Americans who download its movies. Some 500 internet users in Singapore received letters from a law firm, working on behalf of the owners of a movie that had been illegally downloaded, asking for a written offer for damages within three days.
The movie in question is the Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club, which is owned by a company known as Dallas Buyers Club LLC. It is not exactly the most downloaded movie in the world, but the owners have been on a global campaign to clamp down on people who have downloaded the movie.
Users were tracked from their IP addresses, which were obtained through a court order. Singaporean telcos Singtel, StarHub, and M1 had originally refused to disclose user information to Dallas Buyers Club’s legal representatives; but were later forced to do so by the courts. It should be noted that Singtel has claimed that it has not seen any court order, which indicates that it could still be attempting to resist releasing customer data.
The decision to go after internet users based on their IP addresses has been criticised by internet users, who note that an IP address is not proof of identity. This was supported by a ruling from a Federal judge in the US state of Washington, who said that an IP address is not evidence of copyright infringement. While the ruling is only binding in the United States, it should provide a compelling defence for those currently facing legal action in Singapore.
Singapore is not the only country where legal action is being taken. Some 4,700 internet users in Australia have also been served legal letters from the same company, and around 1,000 Americans also share the same fate.
Whether the same action could take place in Malaysia is unknown. It would greatly depend on whether the owners of the copyright are able to compel Malaysian ISPs to hand over user data. However, one thing of note is that there has been no legal action against the Singaporean users as of yet. The letter from the lawyers is an allegation, and has no binding power to force the users into paying anything.
In fact, this looks more like a scare tactic to force users into a settlement without going to court; especially considering the amount of funds it would take to sue 500 Singaporeans at the same time.
[Source: The Straits Times]