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  • Kyle Chua

Singapore To Outlaw Sale of Set-Top Boxes With Pirated Content

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

The sale of set-top boxes that offer users access to streams of pirated movies and shows will soon be made illegal in Singapore.

Singapore Android TV

Credit: Lianhe Zaobao

The Ministry of Law outlined a new set of proposed changes to the Copyright Act on Tuesday, 6 July 2021, in a bid to strengthen the country’s protection of copyright properties. Unlike before where criminal penalties depend largely on the situation, the amendments now clearly define violations that individuals can commit. And if found guilty, violators could face fines of up to S$100,000 for individuals and up to S$200,000 for entities, jail time of up to 5 years or even both.

The ministry further stated that recent technological advancements have created a gap in what devices and services are covered by the Copyright Act, allowing retailers to exploit this legal ambiguity for profit. The changes are meant to close that gap and allow rights owners to take legal action against those who distribute pirated content.

“As our current laws are silent on these new types of devices and services, including how they are imported and sold, there is some legal uncertainty regarding whether enforcement action could be successfully taken,” a ministry spokesman told The Straits Times.

Android Set-Top Box

Credit: The Straits Times

Retailers of set-top boxes with pirated movies and shows could reportedly be sued by the rights owners of the content being accessed. Those who offer pirated music, shows or software, or access to these types of content, can similarly be sued.

The proposed changes come from a review of the Copyright Act, involving a three-year assessment and several rounds of consultation dating back to 2016. The Act was last amended in 2014.

The spokesman added that consumers are sometimes misled into thinking that the means by which they are accessing content is legal and that any subscription charges they are paying for go straight to the rights owner. But that is not the case, and content providers and the associations representing them have raised these issues to the ministry.

TV remote

Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

The proposed changes also mean that it is illegal for retailers to install apps that stream pirated content onto a consumer’s device. At the same time, they cannot offer extra services or give instructions on how to modify the devices they sell. This is said to be a common case when consumers are buying a new set-top box. Despite being sold as a “clean” device, retailers will tell consumers how to stream pirated content.

Along with all of these, the proposal makes it a requirement for anyone who is using or sharing a public performance or work to identify the creator of said performance. This applies to a dance video, for example. Crediting has to be done in a clear and reasonably prominent manner, added the ministry.

It was also suggested that the creators of photographs, portraits, engravings, sound recordings and films become the default first owners of the copyright, even if the works were commissioned. Copyright ownership, however, can be waived in contracts during negotiations.

The ministry said revising the Act helps “to encourage consumption of copyright works from legitimate sources”. If the changes are passed in Parliament, they are expected to take effect sometime in November 2021.


Written by Kyle Chua

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