SINGAPORE: New laws banning the sale of set-top boxes – typically used to stream content from unauthorised sources – are among the proposed changes to the Copyright Act, the Ministry of Law said.
On Thursday (Jan 17), the ministry released a report outlining its proposed changes – the culmination of a three-year review and consultations with members of the public.
It proposed that new enforcement measures be made available to copyright owners to deter retailers and service providers from "profiting off providing access to content from unauthorised sources", such as through the sale of set-top boxes that enable such access.
"The measures, which are absent today, will make clear that acts such as the import and sale of such devices are prohibited," said the ministry.
Other 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.
The ministry said it is amending the Copyright Act in view of technological developments in the past decades.
During the 2016 public consultation period, respondents including content providers and cablecasters had highlighted the prevalence of such set-top boxes, said the report.
These boxes can be pre-configured to provide unauthorised access to content. In some cases, the box might not be pre-configured, but retailers will configure the box as part of the sale or provide instructions or website links to do so.
As part of proposed changes, new legislative provisions will be introduced to impose civil and criminal liability on those who "wilfully make, import for sale, commercially distribute or sell a product" that can be used to access audio-visual content from an unauthorised source, said the report.
In addition, the product must be:
- Designed or made primarily for providing access to such content,
- Advertised as providing access to such content, or
- Sold as providing access to such content, where the retailer sells a generic device with the understanding that “add-on” services such as the provision of website links, instructions or installation of subscription services will subsequently be provided
This covers both hardware devices and software applications.
There will also be measures to tackle those who provide a service to enable devices to access content from unauthorised sources (such as by providing website links, instructions or installation of subscription services), added the report.
The use of these boxes has been in the spotlight in recent years.
Last January, two Android TV box sellers, An-Nahl and Synnex Trading, were charged with "wilfully infringing" the copyright of four companies - telcos StarHub and Singtel, entertainment giant Fox Networks Group and football’s Premier League.
The case, which will be heard in April, is a chance for the Courts to clarify its legal position on the use of such boxes.
Meanwhile, the High Court last November ordered Internet service providers to block access to TV box applications that allow users to stream and download content like movies, TV shows and live sports channels, following the hearing of a motion filed by Singnet, Fox Networks Group Singapore, NGC Network Asia, Fox International Channels (US) and The Football Association Premier League.
The amendments to the Copyright Act will "complement" this existing mechanism for blocking "flagrantly infringing online locations", said the report.