Under the Copyright Act, copyright holders can claim up to $10,000 per title as damages for copyright infringement, which includes the illegal downloading of media files. However, many cases remain unreported as they are mostly settled away from the public limelight. The Dallas Buyers Club case will be used specifically for discussion as such.
Copyright Infringement Story: What is the Dallas Buyers Club saga about?
In 2015, Dallas Buyers Club LLC (“Dallas”) sent letters of demand to Internet subscribers for illegally downloading the movie, Dallas Buyers Club. This stirred up some frenzy in the public, affecting at least 500 people. After this saga, more recently, the three major Internet providers (Singtel, M1 and Starhub) were once again served papers – this time from QOTD Film Investments and Fathers & Daughters Nevada LLC, requesting them to give up details of their customers who purportedly downloaded the drama films Fathers & Daughters and Queen Of The Desert. More details of this case can also be found at our article on the Dallas Buyers Club saga.
Lessons about copyright infringement from the Dallas Buyers Club saga in 2015
Following the saga in 2015, here are several factors to take note of:
- Retrieval of information from telcos
Last year, Samuel Seow Law Corporation, representing Dallas, eventually succeeded in obtaining court orders to compel telcos to turn over information of subscribers who purportedly downloaded the movie.
- Speculative invoicing by lawyers from Samuel Seow Law Corporation
“Speculative invoicing” refers to the practice of sending letters to alleged intellectual property parties to demand that they pay up to avoid being taken to court. In the Dallas Buyers Club saga last year, subscribers received such threatening letters from lawyers requesting them to pay up. They lodged complaints, and eventually, it was clarified that lawyers are not allowed to use threats of criminal proceedings to further civil claims. Thus, they were punished accordingly.
- The IPOS and the AGC Stance: Content owners have the right to enforce their IP, but this should be done with legitimacy and respect for the entire process
After this episode, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) are keen to step in, to ensure a fair and legitimate handling of such processes while acknowledging that content owners should have the right to enforce their intellectual property. Details are elaborated below.
Copyright Infringement Letter: What should I do?
In the event whereby you are issued with a letter of demand for copyright infringement, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Intervention of AGC and IPOS This time round, AGC and IPOS have gone a step further, and are pushing to put in place safeguards and conditions. For instance, AGC sent a letter to Samuel Seow Law Corporation to clarify the studios’ intentions, including the amount of damages they are seeking and how they arrived at the amount. They have also applied to intervene in court proceedings. On the other hand, according to IPOS, affected parties can sign-up for complimentary intellectual property business and legal clinics, and benefit from consultations with lawyers to receive practical legal advice on their next move. Other safeguards that could be introduced may include setting a limit on the amount of damages that can be claimed. Through these measures, it is hoped that subscribers will be protected from abuse.
- Get legal advice from lawyers experienced in intellectual property Know your rights! It is crucial to seek legal advice, to ensure that there is no abuse of process when it comes to copyright holders attempting to seek claims. Wrongfully threatening letters may allow for subscribers to demand claims under S 200 of the Copyright Act for “groundless threat of infringement”.
- Court proceedings and claims
It is not usual that court proceedings will be the end-result. Given the high legal costs, open settlements are more probable, as the nature of these infringements involve only small-scale downloads. Unfortunately, the exact sum of claims by the movie producers remains uncertain, as the sums are negotiated individually with infringers with different factors taken into account.
You may get in touch with our lawyers specialising in copyright infringement and other related issues should you require professional legal advice.