Netizens raise funds to help downloaders

Netizens raise funds to help downloaders
POPULAR: Dallas Buyers Club is a biographical film starring Matthew McConaughey

A GROUP of six netizens from online forum Hardwarezone has created an e-platform to raise funds to help local Internet users who have been targeted by a Hollywood studio for illegally sharing its film, Dallas Buyers Club.

Early last month, Voltage Pictures sent 77 M1 users letters demanding a written offer of damages and costs, a move which sparked heated discussion on the Internet and social media.

Another 150 letters are expected to be sent to Singtel subscribers after the telco handed over their details to Voltage Pictures' local representative, Samuel Seow Law Corporation, on Wednesday.

The leader of the online crowdfunding effort, who goes by the moniker Dr Tara Green, contacted The Straits Times late Wednesday night, saying she believes in "fighting for the underdogs".

The online campaign, dubbed Let's Unite Against Speculative Invoicing, went live at 10am yesterday. The group hopes to raise at least $4,000 through donations to cover legal fees for those who received the letter. The money will go towards the aid of 20 people who have come forward to ask for help.

Depending on how much is raised, there are also plans to hire a computer forensic expert to challenge the digital evidence gathered by Voltage to identify the alleged illegal downloaders. The effort raised US$356 (S$469) from 10 people in eight hours.

But intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird raised concerns about the administration of the funds.

"The people running this should identify themselves or the effort will risk being seen as a scam," said Mr Chua.

A Straits Times check shows that the domain name of online forum - administrated by the same Dr Green - is registered to someone in Singapore by the name of James Tan.

The Straits Times called the registered phone number but was told: "Wrong number."

Samuel Seow Law Corp declined to comment. The letters sent to alleged downloaders so far have not stated any compensation amount, prompting lawyers to speculate that it could be an attempt to settle quickly. More than 500 Singapore Internet protocol addresses were identified.

StarHub is expected to hand over customer details by May 16.

This article was first published on May 1, 2015.
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