What should I do if I have been downloading media files illegally, and a lawyer’s letter has been served warning me to stop and to pay compensation?

In the 2007 ODEX anime saga, hundreds of illegal anime downloaders were issued letters demanding payment in place of litigation by ODEX. Payments asked for were as high as S$5,000 per downloader. ODEX was able to do so by first compelling Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to release personal information of these downloaders via a court order. A subsequent court decision with regards to Pacific Internet ruled that an ISP would only be required to reveal such personal data to the copyright owner, such as the Japanese anime studios, and not a mere licensee such as ODEX.

Media files such as songs, movies or anime are protected by copyright laws such as the Copyright Act. By illegally downloading such content without the permission of the copyright owner, you face possible litigation. If the litigation is successful, the court may order you to pay the copyright owner damages. Although it is doubtful if a third-party licensee, such as ODEX, has a right to pursue such a claim, many illegal downloaders who received a demand for payment eventually agreed to settle out of court by paying the sum demanded.

An illegal downloader is unlikely to have any viable defence if there is proof of illegal downloading. A court will order the downloader to pay damages suffered by the copyright owner. Such damages can include a loss of profit as a result of the illegal downloading, and can balloon as a result of file-sharing with other users. If the copyright owner demands payment seemingly manifestly excessive in return for an out-of-court settlement, you should first consult a lawyer to seek advice.

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