The High Court in Singapore has ordered an ISP to hand over the personal details of its customers who used BitTorrent to share Japanese anime titles, overturning a previous decision. The decision will likely pave the way to taking legal action against hundreds more BitTorrent users.
Odex Pt. Ltd is a Singapore-based company that distributes anime in South East Asia. Founded in 1998 it started distributing anime in 2000, offering titles such as Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist and Mobile Suit Gundam. Last year we reported that the company had started to pursue those it accused of sharing its copyright works, sending out many ‘pay up $3500 or else’ letters – a response, says the company, to a drop in sales of more than 60% in the previous 2 years.
Odex used a tracking system to collect IP address of alleged sharers and then in court cases, successfully forced the ISPs StarHub and Singnet to give up the identities of their customers involved in the sweep. Next up, they tried to force another ISP, PacNet to give up the same. However, PacNet refused, so Odex went to court to try to force them to comply. To the dismay of Odex, the court decided that Odex had ‘no right of civil action’ against those it accused of infringing its copyrights, as Odex is only a sub-licensee of the anime titles it distributes, not the copyright holder.
In a very short-lived victory for file-sharers on Tuesday, the High Court dismissed attempts to force PacNet to give up its customers details to Odex. The judge, Justice Woo Bih Li, decided that as Odex had no right in this case to take copyright action, it could not be allowed to see the personal details of PacNet’s customers either.
However, in 2007, Odex added the names of the real six Japanese copyright holders to its case (GDH, Kadokawa Pictures, Showgate, Sunrise, TV Tokyo MediaNet and Yomiuri Telecasting) which, it turns out, was a smart move. Although Justice Woo Bih Li denied Odex a chance to see the records, the real copyright holders are in a position to sue – so he granted them full access to the records instead.
A spokesperson for PacNet said: “Pacnet is glad that the court has ruled in favour of us and has dismissed Odex’s appeal with costs. We will abide by [the] ruling and provide these copyright owners with the details of about 500 IP addresses.”
By some estimates, Odex could’ve made as much as $9m if everyone they accused paid up so they are understandably pleased at the result of the case. A spokesman said: “This ruling in favor of the Japanese copyright owners is a significant boost for us and our principals, as we have always acted for and on behalf of the copyright owners. We are very pleased that Pacnet will now be required to hand over information on the infringing accounts to our copyright owners.”
It’s likely that this decision will encourage Odex to continue with their tactics against file-sharers, tactics which have already resulted in death threats for its boss, Stephen Sing and his family, after being dubbed ‘the most hated man in Singapore’s anime community’.