Singapore digital piracy - taking on the set top box market

Across Asia, new forms of content delivery systems are creating new forms of piracy. The movie and content industry’s efforts to attack these are illustrated by new IP cases. The High Court in Singapore ordered several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to links which provide pirated content such as movies, TV shows and live sports to new TV devices.
Home entertainment devices such as set top boxes and illicit streaming devices (“ISDs”) are increasingly used to access pirated content due to their “open source” nature. Apps or “Add-Ons” offering pirated content can be easily loaded onto ISDs or even a smart phone, computer or tablet. Many have plugins that are designed to scrape the internet and pull together sites that host infringing content, making it effortless for users to access any content anytime. The affordable pricing of these invariably Chinese made boxes (some as low as $20) and free content on demand is irresistible. They are now found across the region.

The case was brought by a coalition of the largest copyright holders in Singapore. With a sophisticated court system, Singapore is often a good place to bring test cases in Asia. Its copyright laws were amended in 2014 to allow for copyright holders to apply for blocking orders from the Court against Network Service Providers/ISPs.

However although the links in the Apps were blocked, the ISD hardware and Apps themselves are not. By disabling online locations with functionalities to access infringing content, the Apps are heavily disrupted. But they are software so can quickly be updated or new Apps made available.

The Singapore case is consistent with Australian Federal Court judgments blocking online locations with functionalities that facilitate copyright infringement. This all illustrates the continuing uphill battle against digital pirates who are constantly evolving to find ways to offer infringing content using the latest technology.