Singaporean set-top boxes allowed unauthorised streaming of movies, TV shows and sport, said the Coalition Against Piracy. Its 21 members, including subsidiaries of Sony and 21st Century Fox, want the Singaporean authorities to block pirating software for devices which can be bought in shops and on e-commerce sites such as Alibaba’s Lazada.
“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” the organisation’s chief Neil Gane told Bloomberg. “[The boxes] have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”
Howie Lau of cable TV provider StarHub said piracy and illicit streaming devices presented a serious threat to the creative industries and amounted to theft.
“The increase in piracy in Singapore is alarming and runs counter to Singapore’s ambitions to be a smart nation. StarHub respects intellectual property rights and we will continue to work closely with our content and government partners to uphold legal rights,” Lau said.
Piracy will cost the entertainment industry an estimated US$31.8 billion in global revenue this year, according to Digital TV Research.
Singapore’s Copyright Law is unclear on the legality of streaming illegal content using an app on a set-top box.
“While the broadcaster of the illegal stream may be liable under the [Copyright] Act, the recipient of the illegal stream, in the absence of any decoding or encryption circumvention, is unlikely to be liable,” Cyril Chua of Robinson LLC told the Straits Times.
The law targets those found guilty of selling or distributing illegal content, who could face up to five years in jail.
Singapore comes ninth in the number of visits per internet user to piracy websites, according to Muso TNT, which monitors illicit online activity.
The modified boxes allow Singaporeans to use apps to view censored or unlicensed content. Viewers can stream uncensored versions of shows like Vikings, which are broadcast in the Lion City with the nudity and violence removed.
At Singapore’s Sim Lim Square (pictured), boxes cost just US$74 and installation videos are available on YouTube.
Retailer Ken Lee said his store sold around 10 to 20 boxes a weekend and there was nothing unlawful about using the hardware. The boxes did not download the programmes themselves so they did not violate copyright laws, he added.