In what has been described as a landmark decision, the Intellectual Property High Court in Kuala Lumpur has declared that the sale, offer for sale, distribution and/or supply of TV Boxes or illicit streaming devices (ISDs) that can provide unauthorised access to copyrighted works, constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act 1987.
The action in the Intellectual Property High Court was brought by satellite operator Measat Broadcast Networks, the service provider for Malaysian pay-TV platform Astro, against a seller of ISDs preloaded with applications which act as gateways to websites or content servers streaming pirated content.
The historic judgment, considered to be the first by the Intellectual Property High Court, is positively received by the authorities and industry players in their battle against digital piracy. Industry leaders including Astro laud the High Court’s judgement as a bold step in the right direction against piracy in Malaysia.
“The declaration by the High Court that sale of ISD which allows access to unauthorised copyright content amounts to copyright infringement sets a precedent for future civil claims on copyright infringement against ISD sellers in the market, including those on e-commerce platforms,” stated Laila Saat, Director, Regulatory of Astro. “This ground-breaking declaration will strengthen intellectual property protection in the country and ongoing anti-piracy efforts, which are pivotal to ensure continuous investment and job creation in Malaysia’s media and entertainment industry. We will continue to work with authorities and content partners to send a strong message that content piracy is theft, illegal and punishable by law.”
“MCMC welcomes the court’s decision, this will strengthen the legal aspects in protecting copyright infringement and battle against piracy, especially in digital and networked forms,” added Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin, Chief Regulatory Officer of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
“Acknowledging that more proactive action is needed to fight digital piracy in the country, FINAS expresses full support for legal action taken by Astro against ISD sellers and all digital piracy activities as these illegal activities has caused the local creative industry a huge loss in revenue every year,” commented Dr. Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nadzri, CEO of the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS). “In driving more holistic and effective strategy battling digital piracy, FINAS has established the Digital Piracy Eradication Committee with the collective support and involvement of relevant law enforcement agencies to further empower and strengthen enforcement, regulations and the terms of distribution licences in line with the provisions under the FINAS Act 244 1981”.
“MyIPO looks forward for cases concerning ISDs to be brought forward to the Malaysian court,” said Zulkarnain Muhammad, Deputy Director General of the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO). “Prevalent and widespread use of ISDs cause far more economic harm than physical copyright piracy. These devices are part of a wider network of online copyright piracy, which will in the long run disincentive original creators from producing creative work. Copyright piracy in any form should be curbed and deterred.”
“Today’s decision is the correct one and we welcome it whole-heartedly,” declared Louis Boswell, CEO of the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA). “Content is not made for free, and it is the right of creators and distributors to charge for it. To circumvent this and steal it is theft, and I see little difference between the theft of physical goods and the theft of video streams. As a society we need to do more to recognise theft for what it is and this ruling is a strong step in that direction.”
“This is an important and welcome declaration by the Intellectual Property High Court, and sends a clear message that the sale of ISDs that provide unauthorised access to copyrighted works constitutes copyright infringement,” asserted Kevin Plumb, Premier League Director of Legal Services. “The Premier League is committed to pursuing all those involved with providing illegal access to Premier League content as well as working to raise awareness of the risks fans face when watching via unauthorised sources. We will continue to work with Astro and local authorities as part of our ongoing anti-piracy programme in Malaysia.”
The estimated loss to the industry and Malaysian economy due to piracy is over RM3 billion (€590m) annually with RM500 million in taxes and thousands of jobs at risk.
The declaration by the High Court follows recent criminal cases successfully brought against ISD retailers. On February 8th, a company director of an IT company was charged at the Shah Alam Sessions Court under Section 41 (1) (ha) of the Copyright Act 1987 with promoting Long TV Android boxes which allow the bypassing of technological protection measures on copyright broadcast work. On February 16th, a woman director of a mobile accessory company pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing TV media boxes that contains software to illegally stream Astro’s content via the Internet. She was fined RM30,000 under Section 232(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, making her the first ISD seller to be charged under this provision.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) reiterated that it will take stern action against suppliers and sellers who misuse devices and software to illegally access content protected by their copyright work owners.