Odex loses court bid against PacNet

Singapore anime distributor fails to get Pacific Internet to reveal the names of its subscribers, but a lawyer says it may have a shot at winning its appeal.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--In an unexpected twist of events, Pacific Internet successfully moved the Singapore court to dismiss Odex's bid for the names of its subscribers accused of illegally downloading anime content.

District Judge Earnest Lau ruled that Odex had "no right of civil action" against the downloaders, according to press reports. This means that Odex, being a sub-licensee, did not hold sufficient rights because it was neither the copyright owner nor the exclusive licensee of the Japanese anime.

Odex is reportedly contesting the court ruling and after some 1,000 Pacific Internet subscribers who allegedly downloaded its content.

The Singapore-based anime distributor has, however, successfully won suits against Singapore's two other ISPs, SingTel and StarHub.

A SingTel spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that SingTel complied with Odex's requests because it was served with a court order.

StarHub said that while it had initially resisted Odex's application to get its customer information, they too had to comply with the court's ruling to reveal its subscribers' personal information. The spokesperson added, however, that StarHub is "assessing [its] options under the circumstances, given the different decisions rendered by the court".

As a result of the ruling, District Judge Lau is being lauded as a hero by several bloggers and forum members. SingTel, on the other hand, is seeing the brunt of the Netizens' anger, for its failure to contest the court order.

A lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ZDNet Asia that it is uncommon for an ISP to challenge a court order.

"When faced with a court order, [ISPs] cannot take this lightly; from my perspective, what SingTel did is not improper, and it is not fair to say SingTel had abrogated on its responsibility [to customers]," he said.

Commenting on the Pacific Internet case, the lawyer said that the registrar's objection against Odex's request--on the grounds of it being a sub-licensee--"complicates matters for sub-licensees".

Noting that it is a common practice for businesses to appoint representatives in countries where they are unable to set up divisions, he said that Odex may win an appeal against the court order by bringing in the relevant copyright holders.

So would the ruling have an implication on ISPs' roles in helping to police illegal downloading? The lawyer does not think so.

"It is an onerous obligation to place on ISPs," he said. "Because there is a practical impossibility for them to track illegal downloads due to the sheer size of record data.

He added that ISPs would probably track selectively, if ordered by a court or government agency for crime prevention

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