AGC: Sentences in TV box piracy case excessive

Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz pleaded guilty to one charge of copyright infringement and was fined $1,200 in April. Jia Xiaofeng pleaded guilty to four charges of copyright infringement. He was given 12 weeks' jail and fined $5,400.
Left: Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz pleaded guilty to one charge of copyright infringement and was fined $1,200 in April. Right: Jia Xiaofeng pleaded guilty to four charges of copyright infringement. He was given 12 weeks' jail and fined $5,400.

It has filed appeal, says part of submissions in State Courts relied on earlier decision that had been overruled

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has appealed to the High Court against the "excessive" sentences meted out by the State Courts to a retailer and its director for infringing copyright involving the sale of Android TV boxes.

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

In a statement yesterday, the AGC said: "The AGC has learnt that part of the sentencing submissions made in the State Courts was erroneous, in that it relied on a previous decision of the State Courts which had been overruled.

"The sentences imposed may thus have been excessive."

It added that private prosecutors made a mistake in their sentencing submissions. Court papers show that law firm Wong & Leow represented the content publishers and pay-TV operators.

Jia had pleaded guilty to four criminal charges of copyright infringement through the sale of Android TV boxes pre-loaded with apps and add-on services that helped consumers access and stream pirated content.

The apps provided unauthorised access to programmes that include English Premier League matches, movies and National Geographic documentaries on Fox's cable channels.

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

Synnex and Jia were dragged to court in January last year by pay-TV operators Singtel and StarHub, and Fox Networks Group and the Premier League.

 
 
 

Also taken to court at the same time were trading firm An-Nahl and its director Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz. Abdul Nagib pleaded guilty to one criminal charge of copyright infringement and was fined $1,200 in April this year.

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

Many often come pre-loaded with apps that stream content from different online sources including Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. They go for as little as $200 apiece.

Jia - described in court papers as "the controlling mind of Synnex" - sold an Android TV box for between $369 and $469, and provided a subscription service to pirated content for $95 a year.

He was said to have "obtained a commercial advantage" through the sale of the illicit boxes.

The case has established that the sale of such Android TV boxes is illegal.

For years, copyright holders have found it difficult to use many of the legal avenues created in the DVD era against such set-top box retailers.

The case also 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.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story reported that the AGC said law firm Wong & Leow made a mistake in its sentencing submissions. AGC did not identify the law firm. The firm was identified in court papers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2019, with the headline 'AGC: Sentences in TV box piracy case excessive'. Print Edition | Subscribe