On 8 July 2014, the Singapore Parliament passed a bill to amend the Copyright Act (Chapter 63).

The amendment introduces new measures to fight online piracy and gives persons with reading disabilities better access to copyrighted materials.

Fighting online piracy

The amendment allows copyright owners to apply for a court order to direct the network service provider (NSP) to block access to flagrantly infringing “online locations” (such as web sites).

Whether or not a web site is flagrantly infringing depends on several factors, including:

  1. whether the web site’s primary purpose is to infringe copyright or facilitate infringement;
  2. whether the web site provides or contains directories, indexes or categories of the means to infringe copyright or facilitate infringement;
  3. whether the web site’s owner/operator shows a disregard for copyright;
  4. whether the courts in other countries have issued orders to block access to the web site on the grounds of copyright infringement;
  5. whether the web site instructs others how to circumvent measures put in place to block access to infringing online locations; and
  6. the volume of traffic at the web site or the frequency of access to the web site.

Web site owners have the right to challenge the copyright owner's application for the court order.

If the order is granted, they have the right of appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Web site owners may apply to revoke the order once the web site is no longer flagrantly infringing.

Copyright owners may also apply to vary the order if necessary.

The new measures offer an alternative to the current procedure of sending a takedown notice to the NSP to request that it block access or remove the infringing material from its network.

Currently, if the NSP fails to comply with the take-down notice, the copyright owner would have to sue the NSP and obtain an injunction to compel the NSP to block access to or remove the infringing material from the network.

Persons with reading disabilities

The Copyright Act was also amended to improve access to copyrighted materials for persons with reading disabilities, such as the visually impaired, persons who cannot hold or manipulate books and persons who cannot focus or move their eyes.

The amendments were made to meet Singapore's obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

The key points of the amendment are summarised below:

  1. More persons and institutions would be able to convert copyrighted materials into formats accessible to persons with reading disabilities, without the permission of copyright owners.
  2. There is no limit to the types of accessible formats which copyrighted materials may be converted into. Such formats include audio, Braille, large-print and photographic formats and the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format.
  3. It would be possible to convert literary, dramatic and artistic works, sound recordings and broadcasts into formats accessible to persons with reading disabilities.
  4. Institutions that assist persons with reading disabilities, as well as educational institutions, may reproduce, distribute, import and make for export copies of copyrighted materials in accessible formats.