Written Answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Question on Speculative Invoicing
14 Jul 2015 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Ms Tin Pei Ling, Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC
To ask the Minister for Law (a) how many cases or complaints involving the practice of speculative invoicing have been received by the Ministry and its statutory boards including the Legal Aid Bureau over the past five years; (b) whether there are sufficient legal safeguards against such practices; and (c) what kind of legal assistance will the Ministry offer to the recipients of such letters of demand.
Speculative invoicing is a term commonly used in the context of copyright infringement on the Internet to refer to the practice where rights-holders send letters of demand to a large number of account holders who are alleged to be copyright infringers. The letter will typically indicate the sender’s willingness to settle the matter upon the recipient paying a sum of money, and imply that otherwise, legal action may be commenced.
The act of sending a letter of demand is not wrongful by itself, unless it contravenes a lawyer’s professional obligations. Letters of demand containing an offer to settle or stating a willingness to settle are common as they allow parties to resolve disputes amicably and quickly. Lawyers who send letters of demand are bound by professional obligations to behave in an ethical manner. The Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules state that a lawyer shall not demand anything other than that recoverable by due process of law, and the Law Society’s Practice Directions prohibit lawyers from threatening criminal proceedings to coerce other parties, or from using offensive or acrimonious language. Any person who believes that a lawyer is guilty of professional misconduct can lodge a complaint with the Law Society.
The Ministry of Law and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) received 2 complaints and 26 queries respectively on speculative invoicing issues relating to a rights-holder’s enforcement action for alleged copyright infringement of the Dallas Buyers Club movie. We are not aware of any other complaints or queries on speculative invoicing over the past 5 years.
Recipients of demand letters can seek legal advice from legal professionals or from the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) if they satisfy the requisite means and merits tests. If the letter involves intellectual property matters, they can also seek assistance from IPOS’ IP Legal Clinics.
Last updated on 14 Jul 2015