Why It Matters

Landmark piracy case: A Hollywood ending, for now

In future, it will not be so easy for copyright holders to target Internet users for alleged piracy.

Earlier this week, the Singapore High Court threw out applications by two Hollywood studios to compel telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 to release the details of Internet subscribers who allegedly downloaded two movies: Fathers And Daughters, and Queen Of The Desert.

The grounds of the landmark decision? Samuel Seow Law Corporation (SSLC), the local law firm that represents the two studios, did not submit "sufficient evidence" to show a link between the over 500 offending Internet Protocol addresses and the alleged pirates. This is because many people may be sharing the same wi-fi connection.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) were responsible for highlighting the lack of sufficient evidence, in a rare intervention.

Queen Of The Desert, which stars Nicole Kidman, is produced by QOTD Film Investment. Fathers And Daughters, a 2015 movie starring Russell Crowe, is produced by Voltage Pictures - the same studio that went after Internet users here in 2015 for illegally downloading the movie Dallas Buyers Club.


SSLC represented Voltage then, and managed to get Singtel, StarHub and M1 to turn over the names and addresses of the alleged downloaders. Hundreds of letters telling users to pay $5,000 were sent out.

Its letters attracted complaints against two SSLC lawyers for breaching ethical guidelines by threatening people with criminal proceedings, prompting the AGC and Ipos to jump in this time to prevent "an abuse of the process of the court".

Lawyers close to the case said the decision signals a push for copyright enforcement via other means such as website blocking. But SSLC is not ready to quit. Managing director Samuel Seow has vowed to find more concrete evidence which will satisfy the court. The cat and mouse game between copyright holders and breachers is not over yet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'A Hollywood ending, for now'. Print Edition | Subscribe