For the first time in Singapore, a group of rights owners consisting of telecommunication companies and cable TV providers successfully enforced their rights against a seller of illicit streaming devices (ISDs). Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz (the respondent) pleaded guilty to one charge under Section 136(3A) of the Copyright Act Cap 63, while another charge under Section 134(4) of the Copyright Act was taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing. The respondent was fined S$1, 200 (US$880).

The proceedings under Section 11(10) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap. 68) were brought by the managing director of a security and brand protection consultancy firm (the complainant), who was instructed by the right holders to initiate the suit.

 

Background facts leading to the suit

On May 4, 2017, an investigator hired by the right holders visited the respondent’s store and purchased one ISD from the respondent. Upon examination, it was determined that the ISD was able to stream copyrighted material owned by the rights holders illegally. On May 23, 2017, members of the Intellectual Property Rights Branch of the Singapore Police Force conducted a raid on the respondent’s store and seized several ISDs.

 

What are ISDs?

ISDs are devices that operate on an operating system, an example being the Android operating system, which are usually preinstalled with subscription-based applications.

According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, the use of such streaming devices to gain access to legitimate content is not illegal. It only becomes illegal when users are able to enjoy their favourite sports or television dramas without having to pay any subscription fee to the right holder.

 

Conclusion

In a joint statement to the media, the rights holders “view this outcome as a welcome development and continue to stand against piracy to protect the intellectual property of content and copyright owners.”

Under Section 136(3A) of the Copyright Act, any person guilty of an offence under Section 136(3A) shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$20,000 (US$14,600) or to imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both.

Such retailers should also bear in mind that, according to the Singapore Copyright Review Report dated January 17, 2019, that subject to certain conditions, “new legislative provisions will be introduced in the future to impose civil and criminal liability on people who wilfully make, import for sale, commercially distribute or sell” set-top boxes.

 

This article was first published on 30 November 2019 in the Asia IP Magazine. For more information, visit https://asiaiplaw.com.