Cablegate: Legal Threats Against Downloaders Provoke Animated
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGP #1736/01 2620832
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190832Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4030
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2621
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4084
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5679
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6252
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 6417
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 001736
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR AUSTR WEISEL, DAUSTR BELL, AND
COPYRIGHT OFFICE FOR MPOOR
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIPR ECPS EINT ECON ETRD EINV SN
SUBJECT: LEGAL THREATS AGAINST DOWNLOADERS PROVOKE ANIMATED
1. (U) Summary: Recent events involving local anime
(Japanese animation) distributor Odex highlight that
Singapore is still struggling with certain facets of
promoting and protecting intellectual property rights (IPR).
Following a difficult enforcement campaign, Odex announced
September 5 it would not take action against Internet users
it had accused of illegally downloading copyrighted material.
Odex's decision came after a judge on August 23 did not
compel Internet service provider (ISP) Pacific Internet
(PacNet) to release the names of subscribers suspected of
illicit downloading. Different judges had previously ruled
that two other Singaporean ISPs must turn over lists of
subscribers to Odex. End summary.
2. (U) Singapore prides itself on having an IP enforcement
regime that is arguably the strongest in the region, and it
acknowledges the role its commitments under the
U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement have played in this
process. The government runs a highly visible campaign that
urges young people to "honor intellectual property," and
overall physical piracy rates are dropping. However, file
sharing via the Internet and other electronic means is
rising, according to industry representatives.
Tokyo, We Have a Problem
3. (U) Odex conducted a six-month monitoring program in 2006
that uncovered more that 400,000 instances of illegal anime
downloads in Singapore, CEO Stephen Sing told us recently.
After reviewing the results of the study, an industry group
comprised of Japanese anime companies authorized Odex to take
action on behalf of its members, he said. In May 2007, Odex
filed applications asking the Singapore court to compel the
country's three ISPs -- Pacific Internet (PacNet), Singapore
Telecommunications (SingNet), and StarHub -- to reveal the
names of subscribers that Odex believed were involved in
A Surprise in Mailbox
4. (SBU) The SingNet and StarHub cases concluded quickly in
favor of Odex. The company began sending out letters that
contained an offer to settle out of court for sums ranging
from S$3000 to S$5000 (US$2000 to US$3300). Approximately 40
percent of letter recipients, or their parents, had already
complied with the terms of the letter, according to Sing.
Odex used all monies collected to defray associated
administrative costs. Sing asserted that neither Odex nor
the companies it represented had profited from the campaign.
PacNet--Odd Man Out
5. (SBU) Unlike the SingNet and Starhub cases, the PacNet
case did not conclude for several months, and the judge
eventually ruled against Odex. He questioned whether Odex
was the correct party to act on behalf of the rights holders.
Odex's attorney said he was surprised by the judge's
reasoning, in particular because PacNet had not raised this
issue during the hearing. Furthermore, both SingNet and
StarHub had pursued this line of defense, which was rejected
by two other judges. Odex's attorney speculated that
backlash after the first rulings might have affected the
judge's decision in the PacNet case.
Revenge of the Nerds
6. (U) Odex's actions went relatively unnoticed by the
general public until Sing made statements online in early
August to the effect that suing people was consuming all of
his time. His comments roiled the anime community, which up
to that point had limited its reaction to chat room rants and
relatively benign anonymous e-mails, according to Sing.
After Sing's comments, the attacks turned personal.
SINGAPORE 00001736 002 OF 002
Detractors began posting pictures of him and his wife and
issuing death threats. Sing turned to the police, and the
local media began covering the story in depth.
Trial by Press
7. (SBU) A Straits Times (ST) newspaper columnist recently
penned several articles that appear to favor the downloaders.
(Note: ST is owned by Singapore Press Holdings, a private
company with close ties to the government. End note.) The
writer at first questioned whether the "fair use" provision
of Singapore's Copyright Act might exonerate the accused. A
regional representative of the International Federation of
the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) described this line of
defense as "ridiculous." The ST columnist then changed
tactics and wrote two articles suggesting that privacy should
take precedence over "narrow interests", i.e., intellectual
property rights. Odex's attorney called the articles "very
irresponsible," and questioned ST's decision not to publish
any of the counter-arguments Odex and AVPAS had submitted to
8. (SBU) The GOS has been known to use Singapore's tightly
controlled press to address problems and gauge public
interest before announcing policy decisions via a carefully
orchestrated outreach. The reluctance of its media to run
articles fully debating the downloading issue suggests
ambivalence in certain quarters about how far IPR enforcement
against individual users should extend. We will closely
monitor whether the recent ST articles translate into
backpedaling on Singapore's enforcement of its IPR
commitments under the FTA.
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