Singapore’s Ministry of Law is seeking to update copyright legislation with the aim of providing a more effective means for content rights holders to protect their copyright online.
Noting that online piracy is a global issue, it advises that studies commissioned by rights holders indicate there is a high level of consumption of online copyright infringing (pirated) content in Singapore. “This adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector and the livelihoods of people working in these industries. It also undermines our reputation as an economy that respects the protection of intellectual property,” says the Ministry.
To this end, it has launched a public consultation on proposed amendments to the Copyright Act. The proposed amendments take reference from the recommendations made by the Media Convergence Review Panel in 2012, and aim to enable content rights holders to protect their rights more effectively against pirate websites through judicial measures.
The Panel recommended a multi-pronged approach to address online piracy, comprising (a) public education, (b) the promotion of legitimate digital content services, and (c) the adoption of appropriate regulatory measures. The Government says it has been encouraging rights holders to increase the availability of legitimate digital content in Singapore, so that consumers are able to access such content conveniently and at reasonable prices.
Under the current Copyright Act, rights holders can issue a ‘take-down’ notice to a network service provider (NSP) or Internet Service Provider (ISP) to request that it disables access to or removes copyright infringing material from its network. If ISPs do not respond to a take-down notice, rights holders will need to sue them for copyright infringement and seek an injunction against ISPs to disable access to or remove the copyright infringing material from their network.
The changes, if implemented, would also permit rights holders to apply directly to the Courts for injunctions to prevent access to sites that clearly and blatantly infringe copyright, without having to sue ISPs. This judicial process is expected to be more efficient and avoids implicating the ISPs unnecessarily.
In addition, the proposal suggests having a non-exhaustive list of factors to help define what constitutes egregious websites. An example of such a factor would be whether the on-line location’s primary function is to commit or facilitate copyright infringement or whether the owner of the on-line location demonstrates a disregard for copyright. The Ministry says the proposed measure is targeted at websites that show a blatant disregard for, and that clearly infringe, copyrights. Legitimate search engines and content sharing sites such as Google and YouTube will not be affected. It notes that countries such as the UK, Norway and Belgium have adopted similar legislation and have issued injunctions for their ISPs to block sites such as The Pirate Bay.
All applications for injunctions must be made by rights holders or their exclusive licensees, and then reviewed by the Courts.
The Ministry notes that Spain and Malaysia have implemented an administrative site-blocking approach where rights holders can apply for site-blocking orders from a Government-appointed body. France has introduced a ‘graduated response’ system where individual Internet users are notified of their infringing activity by the ISP, and can be penalised if they continue their infringing activity despite repeated notifications.
The Ministry says that the Singapore Government considered these possible alternative measures, but decided against them because they were deemed too intrusive on Internet users.
The public consultation closes on Monday, 21 April 2014.