Singapore ISPs ordered to block access to TV boxes preloaded with content apps

Country's High Court has dished out orders for local internet service providers to cut off access to illicit streaming devices, many of which are Android TV boxes preloaded with applications that let users watch pirated content.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore's High Court has ordered local internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to illicit streaming devices, many of which are Android TV boxes preloaded with applications that let users watch pirated content.

The instructions were dished out early this month and is a welcomed move towards stemming illegal access to copyright content, according to the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA). The trade group is a spinoff from CASBAA (Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia) and encompasses the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), which represents various telcos and video content creators and distributors in the region. Its members include Discovery, Singtel, The Walt Disney Company, Fox Networks Group, HBO Asia, La Liga, Netflix, and the Premier League.

AVIA said apps preloaded on the Android TV boxes "flagrantly infringe copyright by acting as gateways to websites streaming pirated content" and are openly sold in retail outlets, IT exhibitions, and online marketplaces.

The industry group added that these applications and illicit streaming devices were "impacting" businesses dealing with the production and distribution of legitimate content. Preloaded with the streaming applications, consumers are able to access "unauthorised" video content for the price of a TV box, circumventing the need to pay for monthly or yearly subscriptions.

AVIA CEO Louis Boswell said: "AVIA welcomes the court's decision to block access to such popular ISD applications. We have always maintained that illicit streaming devices are illegal in Singapore."

CAP's general manager Neil Gane added that the move reaffirmed the city-state's reputation as a protector of intellectual property rights in Asia.

Gane said: "The content industry will make every effort to prevent and disrupt the illegal feeds of live sports, TV channels, and video-on-demand content that are monetised by crime syndicates."

"Consumers who buy illicit streaming devices are not only funding crime groups, but also wasting their money when the channels stop working. [These devices] do not come with a 'service guarantee', no matter what the seller may claim," he said.

In January 2018, four companies -- Singtel, StarHub, Fox Networks Groups, and the Premier League -- brought copyright infringement charges against two Android TV box sellers in Singapore.

A CASBAA study in September 2017 revealed that 39 percent of Singaporean respondents admitted to streaming or downloading online content illegally. Conducted by Sycamore Research, which polled 1,000 local consumers, the survey found that 14 percent tapped streaming media devices to access such content.

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