The director of a Singapore-based electronics retailer has been sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for selling illegal streaming devices (ISDs) that offer access to illegal broadcasts of English Premier League matches as well as other copyright content. Jia Xiaofeng, director of Synnex Trading, also has to pay a fine of SG$5,400 while the company has been ordered to dish out SG$160,800.
The conviction marks the end of a what had been hailed a landmark case that began in January last year, when Synnex Trading and An-Nahl -- along with their directors -- were charged in Singapore's state courts for breaching various infringement offences stated in section 136 (3A) of the Copyright Act. It also was the first successful prosecutions of ISD sellers in the city-state.
Earlier in April, An-Nahl's director Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz was fined SG$1,200 after pleading guilty to one charge of wilfully infringing on the copyright of rights owners.
Jia had peddled the devices, also popularly known as Android TV boxes, from his electronics store, where the devices were found to have been pre-installed with apps that provided unauthorised access to copyright content including films, TV shows, and live sports.
In a statement released Thursday, the Premier League said: "These ISDs were falsely advertised to the public as legal and containing legitimately sourced content."
Along with local pay TV operators Singtel and StarHub as well as Fox Networks Group, the four companies brought the two cases to court.
The Premier League's director of legal services Kevin Plumb said: "This case shows there are serious consequences for sellers of illegal streaming devices and that the Premier League will prosecute those responsible for the piracy of our content. This sentencing shows that this is not a grey area, and that selling these devices is against the law.
"We have fantastic passionate fans in Singapore and we are protecting those who watch Premier League content in the right way. Those who don't, leave themselves open to a number of risks including becoming victims of fraud or identity theft," Plumb said, adding that the league operates a local team that focuses on safeguarding its intellectual property rights. "We will continue to investigate and pursue all suppliers of illegal streaming services in the region."
Trade group Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) added that the ruling provided a "deterrence and clarity" that selling ISDs is illegal in Singapore. General manager for the association's Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), Neil Gane, said these retailers misled consumers by claiming the content accessible through these TV boxes was legal.
Citing a YouGov survey it commissioned, CAP said 20% of Singapore consumers used a TV box that could stream pirated content. Another 28% cancelled their subscriptions to a local online video service after purchasing an ISD.
StarHub's vice president of home product, Yann Courqueux, added in a statement: "Today's ruling sends a clear and unequivocal message to distributors and sellers of pirate streaming devices, that their deeds are prohibited. [It] will serve as a significant deterrent to potential retailers looking to market products that facilitate copyright infringement and hurt the creative industry."
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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.
Despite knowing the potential security risks of doing so, 39 percent of Singaporeans admit they illegally stream or download content, with 14 percent tapping streaming devices to access pirated content.
M1 reveals it handed over customer information to a Singapore law firm involved in a case of illegal movie downloads, while StarHub says it also has received similar orders to do so.
Country passes bill that will allow rights owners to secure court injunctions instructing ISPs to block access to websites that contain copyright-infringing content.