Alright. This is an overblogged topic but as a fan of anime myself, I want to put my thoughts out there.
Here’s what’s been happening in the anime scene in Singapore for the past few weeks. Everyday, there’s an article in the news regarding this incident.
Local anime distributor, Odex, has been sending out legal threats to many people for downloading anime. People who received those letters were shown a list of their downloads mostly, perhaps all of them, using the bittorrent protocol.
These people were asked to go down to the Odex office to sign an agreement which basically admits that they downloaded and promise not to do it again. However, from what I understand, the agreement allows them to further legally screw you whenever they feel like it. Downloaders also had to pay sums of $3000~$5000 ($2000~$3300 USD), which is a sum of money not to be taken lightly.
Odex claims these amount of money are used to cover their lawyer fees and the costs incurred to track down the downloaders. It’s in the news that they have the info of about 3000 IPs. Some may belong to the same person because local ISPs here give dynamic IP addresses.
So let’s assume 1500 people are going to be sued for an average of $4000. Odex acquires $6,000,000 in it’s lawsuit rampage.
Oh, the youngest offender so far is a 9 year old. He wasn’t given a chance.
The response, a majority of fans began discussing this legal threats on the forums. Someone managed to find some information on one of the directors of Odex, Stephen Sing, and his posts in another forum.
"Nope~ Me too busy sueing people~" and "Hahahaha! I double-6-ed so many downloaders~"
These 2 posts, obvious that it was about the recent legal threats Odex has been giving, further infuriated people which resulted in headline news:
When interviewed, he claimed it was taken out of context and he had forgotten about it because it was posted 2 months ago. However, it was actually 2 weeks…
Poor guy now has his address, Identification number, photoshopped pics of his photos all over the net now.
Some interviews with Peter Go, another of Odex’s directors, claim that they only want to stop piracy and help anime flourish in Singapore. But shooting out lawsuits is definitely not the way.
The majority of downloaders are casual fans and only want free stuff. You stop them from downloading, they’ll just move on to other sources of entertainment. They won’t buy VCDs or DVDs. Odex loses here.
The real fans who will fork out money to buy the DVDs of a series they like, may stop buying from Odex now. Most of them probably never bought from Odex in the first place, because of the poor translations.
Originally, the anime community in Singapore is small. Thanks to fansubs and the ease and speed of bittorrent, this community grew fast. Cosplay events became bigger and quality improved over the years. 4 years ago, I would feel embarrassed reading manga in public while dressed in my formal work attire. But not anymore now.
These lawsuits may discourage and kill alot of fans. There’s a good chance anime’s popularity in Singapore will fall thanks to Odex.
Many fans now live in fear everyday, fear of getting the Odex letter in their mailbox. Not all can easily fork out that sum of money.
Links to relevant articles:
Jan 9th 2007 – DarkMirage: An open letter to Odex
Aug 16th 2007 – CNet Asia: Kicking kids for profit
Aug 18th 2007 – Death threats against Odex
Aug 22nd 2007 – Riuva: Vision of Odex
Note: I may still edit this entry further in future