Singapore Targets Streaming Boxes in Update to Copyright Laws

The Singapore government has announced that it will be amending the country’s Copyright Act to update its copyright regime in an effort to support creators and users of video content. A critical part of the suite of amendments includes new enforcement measures to deter retailers from profiting from providing access to content through unauthorised sources such as TV boxes (also known as illicit streaming devices — ISDs) that enable access to pirated TV channels and video-on-demand content.

Louis Boswell, CEO of the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) commented, “AVIA welcomes the government’s proposals to update Singapore’s Copyright Act to be relevant to the technological developments of today. The application and ISD ecosystem is seriously impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content and generates huge revenue for criminal syndicates and retailers who profit from selling access to stolen intellectual property.”

Neil Gane, the General Manager of AVIA’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) commented, “Illicit streaming devices and their associated applications are by far the most important copyright infringement issue in Singapore. Liability for ISD retailers under the present version of the copyright act exists, but establishing it is not straightforward. We are pleased that the government has recognised that this lack of legal clarity had allowed ISD retailers to mislead consumers that the content accessible through such TV boxes was legal and that requisite subscription charges went to rights-holders – which they did not. Hopefully ISD retailers will no longer be so heavily represented at Singapore IT exhibitions and IT malls.”

The Singapore government announced that the new amendments were intended to “complement the existing mechanism for the blocking of flagrantly infringing online locations”. In November last year the High Court ordered Singapore’s internet service providers to block access to popular illegal applications that are frequently sold pre-loaded on android TV boxes. These apps, which flagrantly infringe copyright by acting as gateways to websites streaming pirated content, had been preloaded on TV boxes which are overtly sold in retail outlets such as Sim Lim Square, IT exhibitions and on popular e-markets.

A November 2018 study of the content viewing behavior of Singaporean consumers, revealed that 15% of consumers use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content. The survey, commissioned by the CAP and conducted by YouGov, also highlighted the detrimental effects of streaming piracy on legitimate subscription video services. Of the 15% of consumers who purchased a TV box for free streaming, more than a quarter (28%) asserted that they cancelled their subscriptions to a Singaporean-based online video service as a direct consequence of owning an ISD.

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