Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Summary judgements

There are legitimate businesses and there are questionable businesses. Oh, no, I am not referring to illegal businesses or illegitimate businesses. I am referring to businesses that makes money by using the law to intimidate and coerce children to cough up S$3,000 to S$5,000 a pop. All this is legal, of course, but nevertheless questionable.

Those who have followed the news on this little island of ours know what I am referring to. There is a company called Odex which is going around town doing the following:

1. Legally coerce two of the biggest telco/ISP companies to reveal details of their customers' activities on the internet

2. Sending intimidating letters of demand to kids not yet able to make their first $10 to pay thousands of dollars to settle their illegal download of Anime pictures, which Odex claims it has licenses over their distribution, at least in Singapore

What is surprising is that none of the cases has gone to court. Parents of these kids prefer to pay up rather than incur possibly greater costs in fighting the claims. As this situation unfolded in the press a couple of weeks back, another incident came to mind.

Not too long ago, there was an electronic Map maker called Virtual Map which was also going around town with lawyers' letters demanding payment from commercial firms which had unwittingly taken maps off its internet website and put them on their internet homepages. The sums demanded were much larger the the 3-5K, but like the situation now, many companies paid up without going to court. It came to a point when one wondered if this company derived its main revenue stream from attempting to sue companies for breaching the copyright law. I say attempting because, like the Odex situation now, none of the cases then made it to the law courts. Apparently this company stopped sending lawyers letters when it received a lawyer's letter itself from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) suing it for using maps which license had expired.

Apparently, the same may be happening in Odex's case. In the latest incident of this saga, the District Court of Singapore rejected Odex's application for Pacific Internet to give it the list of names of those who had illegally downloaded Anime from Pacnet's website. This decision surprised everyone, including lawyers, because the basis for the application was the same as that for Singnet and Starhub. It appears now, after the judge released his basis of judgement, that Singnet and Starhub never really fought for its customers, never really took pains to protect their privacy, never really questioned if Odex in fact held the exclusive rights to the Anime in question to commence legal proceedings. In the PacNet incident, the wise judge felt that some pertinent questions were not addressed adequately and so rejected Odex's application. Good for you, Judge Lau!

Now, I can see parents holding back paying Odex because enough questions have been raised that, even if the matter went to court, Odex may not win its case. Its just sad that some have already paid up. But certain things have now transpired: Odex has lost much goodwill, Singnet and Starhub has lost its users' confidence, and the law is not an ass after all.

Image source: http://www.stockxpert.com/


Anonymous said...

The name of the company is Odex, not Odeo.

Epilogos said...

I stand corrected and have made the changes in the blog post.