A GROUP of Internet users has launched a fund-raising drive in aid of two men who are being sued over alleged illegal downloads of Japanese cartoons, in the first case of its kind here.
The support comes amid what is expected to be a high-stakes case that could affect thousands of netizens in Singapore.
The lawsuit could set several precedents, from the burden of proof necessary to establish that illegal downloads have occurred, to the possible defences for online piracy, and even the penalties offenders can expect if they are convicted.
A spokesman for the group - XenoDefense - behind the defence fund told The Straits Times via e-mail that 'a few thousand dollars' have been pledged. The group also found the two alleged downloaders, Mr Felix Lukman and Mr Koh Lian Boon, a lawyer.
Yesterday, Mr Wong Siew Hong, head of intellectual property litigation at Infinitus Law Corporation, filed Mr Lukman's defence.
Rajah & Tann, acting on behalf of five studios, comprising Showgate, Geneon Entertainment, TV Tokyo, GDH KK and Sunrise, launched the lawsuit last month, taking aim at four alleged downloaders.
It is not known if the other two defendants are contesting the lawsuit. Rajah & Tann declined to comment on the case.
Given the complexity of the matter, the case is expected to cost 'at least $50,000 to $80,000' in legal fees, said Mr Wong, adding that it is likely be heard late next year or in 2010.
If the studios win, they may ask for up to $10,000 for each work illegally downloaded, up to a maximum of $200,000. The losing party will also have to foot some of the winner's legal costs.
XedoDefense.org, the site where the one-year-old group gathers online, now boasts more than 700 registered users. Many argued that rights owners should not sue downloaders. Many also slammed Singapore's laws as outdated, and want unauthorised downloads made legitimate, and strong online privacy laws enacted.
The group's views are likely to be popular here, considering that only one in five Singaporeans is bothered by intellectual property infringement, according to an Intellectual Property Office of Singapore survey.
A national serviceman, who would give his name only as Lim, said: 'I don't mind donating $50, maybe more, if it helps them win the lawsuit. I'll consider it a good investment for a lifetime's supply of free music and movies.'
This story was first published in The Straits Times on 6 December 2008.
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