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Media corporates want Singapore to block streams of illegal content from entering the country

Entertainment titans such as Walt Disney, HBO, the National Basketball Association and the English Premier League has called Singapore a haven for pirating copyrighted programming.

Coalition Against Piracy stated that the viewers in the country buy legitimate set-top boxes that also allow unauthorised streaming of thousands of movies, TV shows and live sporting events.

It has asked that the Singapore government to block the pirating software inside the devices, which are found at local electronics stores and on e-commerce sites such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Lazada.

London-based Digital TV Research stated that Singapore is a focal point in the entertainment industry’s campaign to curb piracy in the region and that online TV and movie piracy will cost the industry an estimated US$31.8 billion (S$42.9 billion) in global revenue this year, reaching US$51.6 billion by 2022.

It added that the Asia-Pacific region will become the largest for online piracy next year, overtaking North America.

London-based Muso TNT, which tracks such visits, announced that the country ranked ninth in the number of visits per internet user to piracy website.

While, industry association  Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) announced in a separate survey that about 40 percent of Singaporeans said that they were active consumers of pirated content.

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) said in an email to Bloomberg that copyright infringement is not so much about a device or technology as it is about whether that device or technology is used in a manner that is illegal and that users of such devices should therefore ensure that they are accessing content from authorized content providers.

Some Chinese vendors, such as Unblock and EVPad, provide devices to scrap the internet for unauthorised content and the square gadgets can be bought either with the streaming apps already installed for plug-and-pirate use or with embedded links for downloading those apps. Users can view the tutorials to set them up on YouTube and Baidu Inc.’s online forum.

The Government does not consider the devices illegal as users can view them legally in websites, such as YouTube and members of public who are interested in buying them, can easily purchase the sets from places such as Sim Lim Square at the price of around $100 and above.

Hong Kong-based chief policy officer for CASBAA, the coalition’s parent organisation, stated that the industry’s efforts include lobbying the Singapore government to eliminate any confusion about legal uses of the devices and to make it easier to take legal action against companies offering pirated content.

Singapore’s Intellectual Property Office added that they continue to engage with the industry on their concerns in relation to the popularity of devices that connect televisions to access online content.

The coalition also wants Singapore to block streams of illegal content from entering the country. Last year, the country blocked one website for offering illegal downloads.

In September, the World Economic Forum ranked Singapore fourth out of 137 countries for protecting intellectual-property rights.

Earlier in August, the Ministry of Law and the IPOS conducted a public consultation on proposed changes to the Copyright Act from 23 August to 24 October 2017.

The Law Ministry said in a statement that the review was called in view of technological developments in the past decades, and how they have led to “immense changes” in the way copyrighted works are created, distributed, accessed and used.

The key proposed of the changes include:

  • Allowing creators to own the copyright in certain specific works they are commissioned to create unless they agree otherwise.
  • For creators to have right of attribution, regardless of whether they still own the copyright.
  • Allowing everyone, subject to certain conditions, to use “orphan works” even when the owner cannot be identified and contacted for consent.
  • Allowing text and data mining for the purpose of data analysis to support growth of the data analytics business sector.
  • Allowing public (not-for-profit) schools to continue to develop and enhance their teaching methods using digital tools and the Internet.

Noted in a ST article this Sept, Casbaa gave feedback to the two entities that the law can be updated to include decoding that takes place outside Singapore to allow content to be streamed illegally to consumers in Singapore via apps in Android boxes.

ST then quoted MinLaw and IPOS’s response, “MinLaw and Ipos are conducting a broad review of our copyright regime, and have held two public consultations. We will carefully consider all the responses received as part of this review.”