AGC steps in as studios seek illegal downloaders

A still of Fathers & Daughters, a 2015 movie which stars Russell Crowe.
A still of Fathers & Daughters, a 2015 movie which stars Russell Crowe.PHOTO: FATHER AND DAUGHTERS / FACEBOOK

The Hollywood studio which previously went after Singapore residents who had illegally downloaded the film Dallas Buyers Club has now set its sights on those who had done the same for another movie.

But the authorities here are stepping in to ensure "no abuse of process". The movie in question this time is Fathers & Daughters, a 2015 movie which stars Russell Crowe.

Voltage Pictures, which is represented by local law firm Samuel Seow Law Corp, had sought last year to get Singapore telcos to release the details of Singapore subscribers found to have illegally downloaded Dallas Buyers Club.

Now Voltage Pictures and another Hollywood studio, QOTD Film Investment, which produced Queen Of The Desert, starring Nicole Kidman, are seeking the details of those who had downloaded the two movies without permission. Voltage is acting through Fathers & Daughters Nevada LLC in this case, with the same Singapore law firm representing the studios.

The Straits Times (ST) understands that the two studios have identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol (IP) addresses through which the two movies were allegedly downloaded. The IP addresses were used by Singtel, StarHub and M1 subscribers.

Yesterday, a pre-trial conference was held in the High Court, with the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) represented at the hearing.

An AGC spokesman told ST it is considering intervening in the various originating summonses filed this time around by the law firm to ensure that there is no abuse of process. For instance, lawyers cannot breach ethical guidelines by carrying a threat of criminal proceedings in their letter of demand.

On Monday, the AGC sent a letter to Samuel Seow Law Corp to clarify the studios' intentions, particularly the amount of damages they are seeking and how they arrived at the amount.

A spokesman for the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore said it has reviewed the positions taken in jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States. The courts in these places had imposed certain safeguards before granting the request for subscriber details to be released, she said.

"While content owners have the right to enforce their intellectual property rights, this should be done in a way that builds legitimacy and respect for the entire process, and is not susceptible to allegations of abuse," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'AGC steps in as studios seek illegal downloaders'. Print Edition | Subscribe