BitTorrent Anime Downloaders Offered Amnesty

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Odex, the anime distribution company that threatened thousands of BitTorrent users it claims it caught distributing its material has made a new offer to those it accuses: Stop downloading our stuff right now and we won't take any action against you.

Director of Odex, Stephen Sing said in the past that the “downloading situation” in Singapore was very bad: “We have engaged companies to track illegal downloads in Singapore, and ratio-wise, we’re actually right up there in the illegal downloads in the world, in terms of Japanese animation.”

Following this, a couple of weeks ago we reported that Odex had tracked down thousands of BitTorrent users it accused of breaching its copyrights and was pursuing them for compensation payments. Lots of BitTorrent users received threatening letters after their ISP SingNet gave Odex their personal details. Other ISP’s stood their ground and refused to hand over the information.

After sending out these letters, Stephen Sing became very unpopular in the anime community with fans putting his personal information on the internet and making threats against him and his family. Add this to the claims that Odex stood to pocket $9 million if their threatening letters paid off, Odex must’ve realized that they were in the middle of a PR disaster and are taking steps to improve their image with their customers.

According to The Star Online, Sing said: “We didn’t expect such a reaction”. Quite. He continued “we learnt to be more humble and yes, we’ve made mistakes” which was probably a reference to his perceived gloating (in respect of chasing downloaders) on an online forum.

In several postings on the official Odex forum, Sing laid out his new strategy:

If an individual stop downloading now, today, on the 3rd September, 2007, he will have no possibility of ever receiving any letters from the copyright holders, (aka the Odex letter) as we will not take anything that he has downloaded before this date against him. We will not send any letters to him.

If an individual continues to download and shows up on our investigation we will send him a letter to ask him to explain why it is so. If he cannot give us a reasonable explanation of why that happened, we will reserve the rights to take legal action against him, with all the evidences that we have collected before and after the 3rd of September (there would necessarily be evidence after the 3rd in order for this to happen).

Addressing the claims that they were profiteering from their anti-piracy activities, Sing said:

We will invite or engage a reputable auditor to audit our accounts pertaining to the collection and costs of this exercise. If (note the word IF) there is any profit, we will donate all of them to a charitable cause.

Additionally, Odex went to court to force the ISP PacNet to give up their customer’s details but the judge decided that PacNet didn’t have to. In a post on their forum, Mr Sing has now confirmed that “…the current group of PACNET users will not be receiving letters from us.”

Wrapping up, Mr Sing said that Odex will from now on “focus enforcement efforts on those who have continued to download illegally even after the publicity in the press on this issue.”

In conclusion, referring to those who have already received letters, Sing said:

For those who have already received our letters, they have already been identified as heavy or persistent downloaders. We will continue to negotiate with those who have not settled the matter yet, or take action if we are instructed to do so by the copyright owners.

So ‘business as usual’ then.

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