Director of firm that sold illegal TV boxes fined $1,200 in landmark case

Singapore State Courts file photo

SINGAPORE — In a landmark case, a director of a company selling illegal TV boxes was fined $1,200 on Wednesday (24 April).

Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, the 58-year-old director of An-Nahl, was one of two separate parties charged for copyright breaches in January last year.

Nagib pleaded guilty to one charge of wilfully infringing on the copyright of rights owners for commercial gain, with another similar charge taken into consideration for his sentence. The charges against An-Nahl were withdrawn. The director had intended to contest his charges but later threw in the towel.

The case against the second firm, Synnex Trading, and its director, Jia Xiao Feng is still pending.

The suit against Nagib, Jia and their two companies were initiated by Neil Kevin Gane, the general manager of the Coalition Against Piracy. Gane was representing several rights owners, including local telcos SingTel and StarHub, entertainment channel Fox and the entity behind the English Premier League.

Authorised set-top boxes have decoders which are used to stream content such as movies, television shows and sports programmes. The sale and distribution of these decoders are illegal under the Broadcasting Act.

However, Android TV boxes, which do not contain decoders, circumvent the law by using apps to stream copyrighted content. The case is considered landmark as the courts could use it to clarify the legal position on these set-top boxes.

A spokesman on behalf of the two telcos, the Premier League and Fox Networks Group told Yahoo News Singapore, “We view this outcome as a welcome development and continue to stand against piracy to protect the intellectual property of content and copyright owners.”

Not main perpetrator: defendant’s lawyer

Nagib and his wife opened a shop selling the Android TV boxes at Tanjong Katong Complex in 2015.

His lawyer, Srijit Jeshua Shashedaran, said in mitigation that his client was not the main perpetrator in the offence.

He said Nagib and his wife sold the Android TV boxes at the behest of Jia and another employee of Synnex Trading in June 2016, after Synnex proposed a commission of $20 for every box sold.

When Nagib and his wife enquired about the legality of the boxes, they were informed by Synnex that the content provided was licensed by Astro Malaysia.

Synnex also claimed that it had sold the boxes for a year and that they were similar to handphones. A consumer had to buy the box and pay a yearly subscription to Astro Malaysia, the company said.

Nagib agreed to the arrangement until 21 September 2017, when he received the cease and desist letter.

“Since then Nagib has abstained from dealing with or being involved in the selling of the Android TV boxes,” said the lawyer.

Nagib has also returned all such boxes in his shop to Synnex, according to the lawyer. He was remorseful and has agreed to assist with the prosecution of Jia and Synnex, the lawyer added.

To pay for the suit, Nagib had to sell his house, said the lawyer, who sought a fine of between $400 and $800.

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