Singapore Parliament in July 2014 amended its copyright laws by strengthening its position against online piracy. The new law intends to provide copyright owners with better ability and effective means to protect their rights in the online space.

The amendments empowers copyright  owners, exclusive  licensees  and  performers  to apply  for  court  orders  or  “siteblocking injunctions” directing network service providers to block access to  “flagrantly infringing” online locations, without having to first sue the Network Service Provider ("NSP") and establishing their liability for copyright infringement.

Prior to the amendments, copyright owners had to first issue take-down notices to NSP asking them to remove infringing materials.  In the event NSP does not comply with the take-down notice, the copyright holder may sue the NSP and establish the NSP’s liability in order to obtain a favorable decision and block access to infringing materials. This process necessarily involves costs and time, and may lead to adverse results.

The recent amendments provide an avenue for copyright holders, exclusive licensees and performers to directly approach the High Court for issuance of siteblocking injunctions. In order to obtain this injunction, the copyright holder has to prove that a particular service has been used or is being used to “flagrantly commit or facilitate copyright infringement in materials.”  The High Court retains discretion to determine whether a location is a “flagrantly infringing online location.” This determination is based on certain non-exhaustive factors including the primary purpose of the website, the content of website, whether the owner or operator of website has shown express disregard for copyright protection, whether other jurisdictions have determined that the website infringes copyright materials, whether the website provides for instructions to circumvent measures that disable access to the website and frequency of website access.  

While the above amendments are appreciated by the relevant players, it remains unclear how the courts will specify the blocking mechanism.  Moreover, it is understood that the amended law would be applicable only where the entire website is infringing copyright and the right holder wishes to disable access to the entire website. For cases where the right holder requires only certain parts of the websites to be disabled, the process of issuing take-down notices through NSP would have to be followed.

With the above amendments, copyright owners have a faster and easier alternative to protect their rights though the practical implementation of this new law would be revealed only with time.  

Further, the amendments afford persons with reading disabilities greater opportunities to access copyrighted works, in line with the Marrakesh Treaty that is expected to be signed and ratified by end of 2014.