Dallas buyers club case: No one sued yet for illegally sharing film

A still from the movie Dallas Buyers Club. Last month, Hollywood studio Voltage Pictures sent letters to some Internet users here, threatening to sue them for illegally sharing the film. No writ of summons has been filed yet.
A still from the movie Dallas Buyers Club. Last month, Hollywood studio Voltage Pictures sent letters to some Internet users here, threatening to sue them for illegally sharing the film. No writ of summons has been filed yet.PHOTO: SHAW

Sources point to resignations in S'pore law firm as possible reason

IT HAS been one month since a Hollywood studio sent letters to Internet users here, threatening to sue them for illegally sharing its film Dallas Buyers Club. Yet, no one has been taken to court.

A Straits Times check with the courts showed that Dallas Buyers Club, a United States-based company belonging to Hollywood studio Voltage Pictures, has not filed a writ of summons against any illegal downloaders here.

Early last month, Voltage sent 77 M1 users letters demanding a written offer of damages and costs, a move which sparked controversy online.

Another 150 letters are expected to be sent to Singtel subscribers after the telco handed over their details to Voltage Pictures' local representative, Samuel Seow Law Corporation, on Wednesday last week.

Sources told The Straits Times that the apparent lack of action could be due to recent resignations in the law firm.

The firm's lead partner on the Dallas Buyers Club case and director of litigation and dispute resolution, Mr Robert Raj Joseph, has resigned. A few trainees have also quit.

Mr Robert declined to confirm or deny that he had resigned when contacted. Mr Samuel Seow, the managing director of Samuel Seow Law, also declined to comment on other resignations.

Intellectual property (IP) lawyer Koh Chia Ling at ATMD Bird & Bird offered another possibility as to why no one has been sued.

"There would be no need to sue if Voltage had obtained satisfactory outcomes through settlements," he said.

But Mr Seow declined to reveal how many Internet users have offered to pay damages and whether their offers have been accepted.

Meanwhile, those who have received the letter of demand can seek free legal advice from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore's (Ipos) newly launched IP Legal Clinic.

So far, no one has sought legal help from it.

In a notice issued two weeks ago, Ipos said that Internet users could question the accuracy of the investigations carried out by copyright owners if they had received a demand letter.

For instance, if an entire household was overseas at the time the infringement was alleged to have occurred, illegal downloading would not have been possible.

"This is ultimately an evidential issue," the notice said.

The notice also recommended the amount of damages users could offer, for instance, the cost of downloading or the price of a DVD of the movie in question.

Critics questioned whether lawyers were permitted to threaten criminal proceedings in the letter.

Ipos advised: "It is unlikely that these criminal provisions will apply where a person has downloaded or shared one movie via a peer-to-peer network, though this will depend on the precise facts of each individual case."

itham@sph.com.sg