Thursday, August 23, 2007

Odex vs Pacnet - Pacnet Wins!!!

It's been officially confirmed. What started out as excited rumours on the various forums regarding the outcome of the case between Odex and Pacific Internet has been verified by the official news channels. This has been confirmed on the 9.30 PM news on Channel 5 and reported on the online Straits Times latest news section in this article. PacNet has successfully resisted in court, an attempt by Odex to force it to reveal its subscribers' information based on the IP addresses of the alleged downloaders. In a court proceeding the outcome of which, most observers myself included, had suspected to be a foregone conclusion in favour of Odex based on its success in getting Singnet and Starhub to reveal their subscriber's information in similar court proceedings; the decision has indeed like the newscaster put it, raised a few eyebrows. I for one, am happy to be proven wrong.

More details are as of yet not available on the ruling though it will definitely be reported in tomorrow's newspapers and an update and detailed analysis will be posted on this blog then. Suffice to say this court decision does provide a psychological boost to anime fans and netizens unhappy with the way Odex has been conducting itself and this saga. I would however caution against celebrating just yet until we find out the grounds for the decision, whether it is based on a technicality (ie: failure to follow proper procedure) or if based on a substantive issue of law.

If Pacnet's victory was due to a failure on Odex's part to observe the correct procedures or file the necessary documents, it would be temporal as all Odex would need to do is to correct the technical irregularity and refile the suit which would then be tried on the substantive issues. The online Straits Time article does however shed some light on the grounds of the decision.

Apparently one of the grounds for the dismissal of the application by District Judge Earnest Lau was that Odex was not the right party to make the application, despite having the go ahead to prosecute on behalf of the Japanese anime distributors. This basically means that in the judge's opinion, Odex does not have the locus standi to commence an action despite being authorized by the Japanese anime companies and this is undoubtedly a substantive issue(regarding Odex's authority) even though it may be fixed by having the correct party bring the action. If the court doesn't recognize the party as having the locus standi or the legal interest to bring a case to court, that party is unable to pursue the case.

Which means the correct party to commence an action would either be AVPAS or the Japanese companies themselves. It remains to be seen whether AVPAS actually has the resources and time and effort to do so, I personally doubt the Japanese animation companies would attempt to commence an action here. This certainly has greater implications for the anime community and downloaders in general.

As to the discrepancies between the PacNet outcome and the Singnet and Starhub court orders, the cases were heard by different judges and both ISPs declined to reveal what legal arguments they used in court. So what will Odex do now? It's highly likely that they will appeal if the grounds of the pacnet decision is indeed that they do not have the locus standi to make an application to force Pacnet to reveal its subscribers' information. Do note that the decision was made at the Subordinate Courts level, there is still the High Court and Court of Appeal which outrank it in superiority. So until a final decision is made by the Court of Appeal (if the appeal goes that far), nothing is set in stone.

Personally, I believe Odex would have to appeal and they must do so. The entire legitimacy of their operations of sending out letters demanding settlement or to face the threat of legal action is based on the premise that they have been authorized by the copyright owners to commence action against downloaders and is the legally recognized party to do so. If they fail to discharge this responsibility, their entire basis for sending out the dreaded letters and threatening legal action is wholly and substantially undermined.

It remains to be seen how the other two ISPs will react. Starhub at least appears more pro-active, saying that they are reviewing their options. Singnet doesn't appear like it's going to do anything other than reiterating that they released the information pursuant to the court order. That's kind of like covering themselves from potential liability and saying 'Hey, even though Pacnet won, we had no other choice.' I believe Singnet subscribers would want a little more action to prove that Singnet is really serious about protecting its customers' privacy. But as the deadline has expired for Starhub and Singnet to lodge an appeal, there appears to be little they can do, at least with regards to the current batch of customer's information that was released.

Anyhow, stay tuned for more updates and analysis on the unfolding legal saga as the story unfolds and more issues come to light. On a wholly unrelated note, one wonders if the District Judge Earnest Lau is an anime fan himself.^^ Food for thought eh?

Update: Pacnet's win over Odex. The implications and other new pieces of information.


naive said...

At last there's company out there who do business with ethics and customer's interests in mind.

Even pacnet is smaller than any of you, pacnet have THE BALLS TO FIGHT for their customers!! while you two don't have the guts!

let's hope that pacnet wins the appeal.

Anonymous said...

What right does a mere distributor have to go around asking for names of downloaders or go around writing nasty letters asking for $5,000 payment? Odex wants to blackmail all the illegal downloaders saying if you don't pay $5,000, I report you to police. Immigration officers taking bribes from illegal overstayer also don't ask for so much.

$5,000 can buy more than $100 anime dvd.

My friend, a copyright lawyer, said Odex has no right under copyright laws. If want to sue, Anime producer in Japan must sue. Not Odex. Odex has no right.