SINGAPORE: One of two retailers charged last January under the Copyright Act for selling Android streaming boxes pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Apr 24).
Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, the company director of local retailer An-Nahl, was fined S$1,200 after pleading guilty to one charge of wilfully infringing on the copyright of rights owners for commercial gain, while another charge was taken into consideration. This was the first time a seller of Android TV boxes has been prosecuted in Singapore.
The charges against his company An-Nahl were withdrawn, with the court ordering a discharge amounting to an acquittal.
The 58-year-old was found to have sold one Android TV box at one of his five shops in Tanjong Katong Complex and helped the customer use the device to make unauthorised copies of copyrighted programmes.
He had previously indicated through his then-lawyer Chia Boon Teck that he intended to contest the charges made against him and his company but has since had a change of heart.
This case can be considered a landmark as the courts had not previously had an opportunity to clarify their legal positions on the law concerning piracy and the use of these devices.
READ: TV streaming devices - are they legal in Singapore?
While set-top boxes containing decoders that enable viewers to watch pay-TV content for free are illegal, the law is not as clear when it comes to Android streaming boxes. These devices do not contain any decoders, but have apps that allow users to stream copyrighted programmes such as English Premier League matches.
The private prosecution case was brought by four parties - telcos Singtel and StarHub, Fox Networks Group and the Premier League - although the named complainant in this case is Mr Neil Kevin Gane, general manager of the Coalition Against Piracy.
The prosecution team was led by Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow’s Andy Leck and Lim Ren Jun, while Netto & Magin’s Srijit Jeshua Shashedaran represented the defendant.
“ALREADY BEEN PUNISHED”
In his mitigation plea, Mr Srijit said Abdul Nagib is not the “main perpetrator” for the case. The An-Nahl director was introduced to Jia Xiaofeng, the other defendant in the case, in June 2016.
It was Jia who proposed a commission of S$20 for every Android TV box sold, and an additional S$5 if the customer purchased a media player software called Kodi, the lawyer said.
When Abdul Nagib asked about the legality of the boxes, Jia told him that the content provided by these devices were licensed by Astro Malaysia. Consumers who bought the device had to pay a yearly subscription and this would go directly to Astro Malaysia.
He was told that Android TV boxes were “in essence, similar to YouTube”, the defendant’s lawyer said.
The 58-year-old is “truly remorseful” for his actions, Mr Srijit added, and this was seen in his actions. For instance, he stopped selling the Android TV boxes since Sep 21, 2017, when he received a cease-and-desist letter.
He has also stopped trading in any electrical products as he recognised he does not have sufficient knowledge in technology to make sure he does not commit another offence, the lawyer added.
Additionally, he said Abdul Nagib has agreed to assist in the prosecution of Jia and his company, Synnex.
He also argued that the director has already been punished to a large extent.
“In order to finance this suit, he had to sell his house and is living in a rented property,” Mr Srijit said, calling for an "appropriate sentence" of a fine between S$400 and S$800.
The prosecution had earlier recommended the fine to be between S$1,000 and S$2,000.
In response to the court ruling, the rights owners said in a joint statement: "We view this outcome as a welcome development and continue to stand against piracy to protect the intellectual property of content and copyright owners.”