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Singapore to make sale of ISDs illegal

As part of the amendments to the Singapore Copyright Act, the government is proposing new enforcement measures to protect interest of content creators in the digital age

The Ministry of Law of Singapore will be amending its Copyright Act to update the republic’s copyright regime to better support content creators so as to enhance the use and enjoyment of creative works in the digital age.

The proposed changes include better recognising creators for their work, allowing easier access to copyrighted materials for educational purposes, and supporting creators and users in the collective licensing of copyrighted works.

A critical part of the amendments include new enforcement measures to deter retailers and service providers from profiting by providing unauthorised access to content, such as through the sale of illicit streaming devices (ISDs) that enable access to content from unauthorised sources.

The measures, which are absent today, will make clear that acts such as the import and sale of such devices are prohibited, the government said in a statement.

The Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) welcomed the Singapore government’s proposal to update the Copyright Act to be in tune with the technological developments of today.

Louis Boswell, CEO of AVIA, elaborated: “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.”

Last November, the republic’s High Court ordered Singapore’s Internet service providers to block access to some illegal applications that are frequently sold pre-loaded on Android TV boxes. These apps, which infringe copyright by acting as gateways to websites streaming pirated content, had been pre-loaded on TV boxes that are sold in retail outlets in the country.

Neil Gane, general manager of AVIA’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), labelled ISDs and their associated applications the “most important copyright infringement issue” in Singapore.

He explained: “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.” 

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