ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Trade association aims to get sites that promote online piracy blocked
SINGAPORE: The blocking of websites which promote online piracy may soon become a reality in Singapore, with at least one entertainment-related trade association planning to take action.
The process to curb digital piracy has been made easier with enhancements to the Copyright Act, which were first passed in Parliament in July, and the changes came into effect in December. The Singapore branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) will be one of the first to test the new laws over the next two months, its regional director Ang Kwee Tiang said.
“We are now actively looking into exercising this in the future,” said Mr Ang, adding that the IFPI is looking at about “three to five such infringing sites”.
Taking on digital pirates could be as simple as taking a screenshot of a website like The Pirate Bay, showing how it offers downloads illegally, and then submitting it as evidence to the High Court, said Gateway Law's intellectual property lawyer Gerald Mursjid.
“When you take a screenshot of The Pirate Bay and you look through the mechanism of the website itself … it's not unreasonable to say that the primary purpose of that website is to commit copyright infringement,” said Mr Mursjid.
Added Mr Ang: “Now, The Pirate Bay has more than 6 million links. We take the screenshots and we show that these are not licensed. We're going to show that The Pirate Bay has been blocked in nine or 10 different countries. I think that will be very convincing for our cause."
Mr Ang said his organisation is still in the midst of gathering evidence. It aims to submit between 100 and 200 screenshots of such sites as part of its application to get internet service providers (ISP) to block them.
“I'm willing to give this new law a shot and see whether it will work to bring down the level of online piracy so that the industry stands a chance,” said Mr Ang.
“I divide (consumers) 80 to 20 – 80 per cent are average consumers, if they cannot get it easily and if a legal site offers it, they may go for the legal site,” added Mr Ang. “The committed pirate is like a committed criminal. They will search for ways to circumvent. But once we have the website blocking, then we are free to tackle the 20 per cent.”
BLOCKING SITES WILL NOT WORK: INTERNET SOCIETY OF SINGAPORE
But some continue to have doubts – the Internet Society of Singapore's president Harish Pillay said efforts in blocking such sites will not work.
“It's a naive consideration to think that people will be blocked,” said Mr Pillay. “This is the internet. The internet works around blockages and outages, and restrictions to access is merely a temporary blockage and we will find ways to work around it.”
Efforts in curbing digital piracy should focus on finding ways to make content shareable in a way that works for everyone, Mr Pillay said. An example is digital music service Spotify, where users pay a flat monthly fee of less than S$10 for unlimited access to an enormous music library.
“People are willing to pay S$10 for something but they cannot get to it because of restrictions being placed on geographical or timing restrictions,” said Mr Pillay. “When you remove that restrictions and all these archaic business models, you have a new customer base that you can now engage with.”
ISPs like StarHub and M1 told 938LIVE they have not received any requests to block pirate sites so far.
The onus is on copyright holders to take the first step in tackling digital piracy. And with the Copyright Act strengthened since December, it is likely that this will happen sooner, rather than later.
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