Retailer fined for helping buyers access pirated content over Android TV boxes; jail term for its director

Synnex Trading was on Oct 30 ordered to pay a fine of $160,800, and its director Jia Xiaofeng was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail and fined $5,400. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A retailer and its director have been convicted of infringing copyright by helping people access pirated content via Android TV boxes.

The landmark victory against piracy here came after a 22-month court battle.

Synnex Trading was on Wednesday (Oct 30) ordered to pay a fine of $160,800, and its director Jia Xiaofeng was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail and fined $5,400.

He pleaded guilty to four criminal charges for "wilfully authorising copyright infringement of copyrighted works for commercial gain" by selling Android TV boxes loaded with apps that provided unauthorised access to programmes including English Premier League matches, movies and National Geographic documentaries on Fox's cable channels.

The charges also touched on 104 media boxes specifically adapted for making copies of the copyrighted content in 2017 at Synnex's Geylang Road shop.

In April this year, trading firm An-Nahl and its director Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz were fined $1,200 after pleading guilty to one criminal charge of copyright infringement.

The two directors and firms were dragged to court together in January last year in an unprecedented move against piracy by pay-TV operators Singtel and StarHub, entertainment titans Fox Networks Group and the Premier League.

On Wednesday, Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb said: "This sentencing shows that this is not a grey area, and that selling these devices is against the law."

Android media set-top boxes are widely sold in Sim Lim Square and are also available at top electronics stores.

They sell for as little as $200 apiece, and many often come preloaded with apps that stream content from different online sources including Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.

The sentencing comes ahead of new laws that will be tabled in Parliament in the next few months to ban the sale of media streaming boxes with "add-on" services that help consumers to access pirated content.

The new laws are the result of a three-year review by the Ministry of Law and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore of local copyright laws.

Copyright holders have found it difficult to resort to many of the usual legal avenues created in the DVD era against set-top box retailers that benefit from the sale of add-on services.

"While this case now establishes that the sale of such Android TV boxes is illegal, the law is still unclear whether it is legal to use the boxes," said lawyer Wong Siew Hong of Eldan Law.

Mr Yann Courqueux, vice-president of home product at StarHub, said that the pay-TV operator believes that the ruling "will serve as a significant deterrent to potential retailers looking to market products which facilitate copyright infringement and hurt the creative industry".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.