Studio demands compensation from more than 500 people here who downloaded movie

MORE than 500 people in Singapore have allegedly downloaded Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club illegally over the Internet, and now they may have to face the music.

United States company Dallas Buyers Club LLC, which owns the film rights, wants compensation.

Acting on its behalf in Singapore - as part of its global campaign - is local law firm Samuel Seow Law Corporation.

The film studio has apparently identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol (IP) addresses, from subscribers of the three major Internet service providers (ISPs) - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - where the movie was downloaded illegally.

Over the weekend, the law firm reportedly started sending letters to Internet users here asking for a written offer of damages and costs within three days of receiving the letter.

It is not known how many have responded to the letter.

The 2013 film is based on the true story of an American's quest to treat HIV in the mid-1980s. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey and Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto.

Intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird said the film studio may sue a few individuals here to scare people into paying the settlement fee, which is not made public.

Lawyer Bryan Tan, a technology partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay, said those who received the letters of demand should seek legal advice. "There are penalties for infringers if this goes all the way," he said.

Lawyer Samuel Seow reportedly said its client, Dallas Buyers Club, "fully intends to protect and defend their copyright in the movie and shall take all necessary actions to protect the same".

The Straits Times understands that the film company had asked for subscriber details from the ISPs last year, but failed.

It then made a "pre-action discovery" application at the High Court earlier this year to force the ISPs to release customer details.

M1 was the first to comply with the court order in January to release the names, IC numbers and addresses of subscribers linked to the IP addresses in question. StarHub, which also received the court order, said it is in the process of complying with it.

Singtel said it has yet to receive a court order.

MyRepublic and ViewQwest said they did not receive any request for subscriber details.

Dallas Buyers Club is also going after about 4,700 Internet users in Australia, after securing a landmark court judgment yesterday that compels ISPs there to hand over customer details.

In the US, more than 1,000 users are being sued.

itham@sph.com.sg