Two set-top box sellers in Singapore charged for copyright breaches

Wan Ting Koh
Singapore’s State Courts. (Yahoo file photo)

Two sellers of TV set-top boxes have been charged with copyright breaches in an unprecedented case that could determine the legal status of such devices in Singapore.

Home appliance retail firm Synnex Trading, retailer An-Nahl and two directors from the firms were taken to court to face piracy allegations.

The complainant in the case is Neil Gane, general manager of the Coalition Against Piracy. Gane appeared in court on behalf of several rights owners on Friday (12 January). According to media reports, he is representing local telcos SingTel and StarHub, entertainment channel Fox and the entity behind the English Premier League.

The firms and directors who are accused of breaching copyright face a jail term of up to six months and/or a maximum fine of $20,000 on a first offence.

An-Nahl and its director, Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, each faces one count of wilfully infringing copyright for profit and one count of possessing 12 pieces of illicit streaming devices, which can make copies of copyrighted cable programmes and cinematograph films. The alleged offences happened in May last year at the firm’s premises in Tanjong Katong Complex.

Synnex Trading and its director, Jia Xiao Feng, each faces three counts of wilfully infringing copyright for profit and one count of possessing 104 pieces of similar illegal devices. The alleged offences happened in May, August and September last year at Synnex’s premises in Le Regal condominium.

The programmes include National Geographic Channel, Fox Family Movies Channel, Star Sports HD1 Channel, TVB Xing He Channel and English Premier League matches.

Nagib said that he plans to engage a lawyer as he intends to claim trial while Jia told the court that he is discussing his legal options. Nagib and Jia will be back in court on 26 January and 2 February, respectively.

The top boxes come with apps that enable users to stream copyrighted programmes without having to pay for the content.

In December last year, the Coalition Against Piracy, whose members include entertainment giants, said that such devices facilitate “rampant” piracy in Singapore, according to media reports. Gane said then that Singapore fared the worst in the Asia-Pacific region for copyright protection due to the wide availability and use of the devices here.