Be aware of copyright when streaming content

The reports on illicit streaming devices (ISDs) have focused on whether an individual consumer bears liability for using such TV boxes (40% in Singapore watch pirated content: Study; Sept 13).

A few key points have been overlooked in the discussion.

ISD boxes are not standalone devices; they are often preloaded with unauthorised apps which are the terminal end of international pirate broadcast networks.

Even if the act of stealing the programming from a cable, satellite, or broadband network takes place in another country, where the content is streamed onto the Internet, the consumer in Singapore is paying for and abetting that theft.

The legal expert quoted by The Straits Times says the use of ISDs is "unlikely" to give rise to legal liability on the part of individual consumers (What the law says about streaming illegal content; Sept 13).

However, investigations have revealed that there are many preloaded boxes being sold in Singapore with applications that rely on peer-to-peer (P2P) technology to stream pirated content.

Recent court cases in the European Union have examined consumer streaming applications and confirmed that a viewer streaming illegal content himself incurs liability for the copyright infringement via use of the box he is operating.

Thus, the pirated content is being uploaded at the same time as it is received. Consumer liability for uploading pirated material is much clearer than simple downloading or traditional streaming.

Second, even where a box/app is only receiving the pirated content, all boxes make a temporary copy of the content being viewed. In making this copy, the consumer infringes copyright.

Recent court cases in the European Union have examined consumer streaming applications and confirmed that a viewer streaming illegal content himself incurs liability for the copyright infringement via use of the box he is operating.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore endorsed this same view in its "Copyright @ Home" information brochure.

While the pay-TV industry intends to focus its enforcement efforts on the "upstream" operators and resellers of piracy networks, consumers should not be misled into thinking that the law clearly absolves their conduct in buying and using ISDs. It does not.

John Medeiros

Chief Policy Officer

Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Be aware of copyright when streaming content'. Print Edition | Subscribe