Can Amendments to the Copyright Act 2014 finally keep the Pirates at bay?

SG Copyright

By Eileen Fong (Ella Cheong LLC)

For many years, Copyright owners have struggled with a generation of IT-savvy individuals who relentlessly upload copyrighted materials for free access by the general public. Under the previous provisions of the Copyright Act, right holders are stranded with the options of issuing “take-down” notices to Internet Service Providers (ISP) to disable or remove copyrighted materials from its network, or suing ISPs if no action is taken. However, the effectiveness of this enforcement avenue has been questionable as ISPs remain behind the shield of costly litigation fees and the uncertainty of determining liability in court.

Under the amended Copyright Act 2014, new measures will by-pass the need to sue the ISPs in order to obtain an injunction against the egregious websites. One of the key features is an option for right holders and exclusive licensees to file a direct application with the court to order ISPs to disable access to “flagrantly infringing online location”. The following are non-exhaustive factors that help identify these “flagrantly infringing online location”:

(a) Whether the primary purpose of the online location is to commit or facilitate copyright infringement;
(b) Whether the online location makes available or contains directories, indexes or categories of the means to commit or facilitate copyright infringement;
(c) Whether the owner or operator of the online location demonstrates a disregard for copyright generally;
(d) Whether access to the online location has been disabled by orders from any court of another country or territory on the ground of or related to copyright infringement;
(e) Whether the online location contains guides or instructions to circumvent measures, or any order of any court, that disables access to the online location on the ground of or related to copyright infringement;
(f) The volume of traffic at or frequency of access to the online location.

As technology advances, it is difficult to keep up with new methods that infringers are capable of using to avoid liability. Even with the abovementioned measures in place, it does not address the challenges faced by copyright owners to hold end-users accountable for copyright infringement. No doubt, the continued demand for pirated content will perpetuate the problem of online piracy.

Nevertheless, with the changes in place, Singapore will step up to join many countries that have put in place various mechanism in recent years to tackle copyright infringement. The approach taken by the Singapore Government is a less intrusive one, but it sets out to block the potential source of infringing act and would hopefully help to reduce copyrighting by home users.

As with all new implementations, the effectiveness of this can only be determined in time to come. On an optimistic outset, this added tool should be a catalyst to propel right holders to start making better efforts to enforce their rights to curb piracy in the long run.