Illegal downloads

Law firm will cooperate with AGC

Two studios have identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol addresses through which the movies Queen Of The Desert (above) and Fathers & Daughters were allegedly downloaded illegally.
Two studios have identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol addresses through which the movies Queen Of The Desert (above) and Fathers & Daughters were allegedly downloaded illegally.PHOTO: ATLAS DISTRIBUTION

Firm acting for film studios says it will ensure demand letters do not cause undue alarm

A local law firm that started proceedings to go after illegal downloaders in Singapore on behalf of two Hollywood studios said it will cooperate with the local authorities to ensure no abuse of process.

It follows a rare intervention by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in civil applications made by Samuel Seow Law Corp (SSLC) in the High Court last month.

"We will work with the local authorities to ensure that there will be no unnecessary alarm to consumers who receive the letters of demand we plan to send out," Mr Samuel Seow, managing director of SSLC, told The Straits Times yesterday.

The High Court applications aim to get Singtel, StarHub and M1 to release details of Internet subscribers alleged to have illegally downloaded the drama films Fathers & Daughters and Queen Of The Desert. SSLC wants to send these subscribers letters demanding compensation.

Mr Seow added that, if required, his law firm will show the courts the letters of demand.

Fathers & Daughters, a 2015 movie starring Russell Crowe, is produced by Voltage Pictures - the same studio that went after Internet users here last year for having illegally downloaded the movie Dallas Buyers Club. SSLC represented Voltage at the time.

ETHICAL GUIDELINES

An abuse of process happens when lawyers use the threat of criminal proceedings for a civil outcome, such as demand for compensation.

LAWYER CYRIL CHUA

Queen Of The Desert, which stars Nicole Kidman, is produced by QOTD Film Investment.

The Straits Times understands that the two studios have identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol addresses through which the two movies were allegedly downloaded illegally.

Yesterday, ST reported that the AGC had stepped in to ensure there would be "no abuse of process".

On Monday, it asked SSLC to clarify the two studios' intentions, particularly the amount of damages they would be seeking and how they arrived at the amount.

On Tuesday, representatives from AGC attended a High Court pre-trial conference initiated by SSLC against the three telcos. The hearing was adjourned.

Lawyers said it is rare for the AGC to intervene in civil cases.

Lawyer Bryan Tan, from Pinsent Masons MPillay, said the AGC's involvement this time is probably a result of complaints made against two SSLC lawyers last year for breaching ethical guidelines with the use of criminal threats in the demand letters over the alleged illegal downloading of the movie Dallas Buyers Club.

The Law Society's Practice Directions and Rulings 1989 - a set of ethical guidelines for lawyers - states: "It is improper for a solicitor to communicate in writing or otherwise a threat of criminal proceedings in order to achieve a stated objective in any circumstance."

Lawyer Cyril Chua of Robinson LLC said: "An abuse of process happens when lawyers use the threat of criminal proceedings for a civil outcome, such as demand for compensation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Law firm will cooperate with AGC'. Print Edition | Subscribe