Singapore Anti-Piracy Efforts


What is an illicit streaming  device (ISD)?

An illicit streaming device (ISD) is one that has been preloaded, pre-installed or configured with software (applications) that enables consumers to stream audio-visual content from illegal content servers.

Configuring streaming devices in this way grants users illegal access to subscription TV, live sports and films for the one-off price of the device and (often) a yearly subscription to access an application.

These applications and content servers are not developed or provided with the authorisation and consent from the content’s copyright owners.

Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, who is the director of trading firm An-Nahl, was one of two retailers who were charged under the Copyright Act in January last year for selling these devices. As part of his acquittal, apology letters were submitted for print in the Straits Times, Lianhe ZaoBao and Berita Harian for the issue dated 8 June 2019

How to identify an illicit streaming device (ISD)?

ISDs often offer access to content that would not normally be available via legitimate streaming platforms. Examples include movies which are still being screened in theatres, or sporting content which are only available via premium subscription channels.

ISDs are also often advertised as providing hundreds of channels for free, or for a very low annual fee. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

ISDs are also often described using a number of common red flags phrases. Key words in product descriptions include:

  • Kodi / XBMC
  • Unlocked / Jail-broken
  • Fully-Loaded / Pre-Installed
  • Free/Unlimited Movies/TV/Sports
  • Plug ‘n Play
  • “Tired of paying subscription fees?”
  • “Cut-the-Cord”

Pitfalls to using an ISD

Site Blocking actions being taken by rights owners

As these ISDs offer unauthorized access to copyrighted content, rights owners have been filing site blocking actions to require ISPs to block access to online locations essential for the operation of certain ISDs, resulting in the disabling of such ISDs. Users of such devices may therefore end up paying for devices which become disabled shortly after, because of such enforcement actions by rights owners.

Vulnerability to Malware and Viruses

The damage that content theft does to the creative industries is without dispute. However, the damage done to consumers themselves, because of the nexus between content piracy and malware, is only beginning to be recognised. Consumers who intentionally or unwittingly access pirated content by purchasing Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) to stream live sports events or view the latest TV shows run the risk of downloading malware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

Pending Legislative Change

On 17 January 2019, The Ministry of Law issued its Copyright Review Report which states the government’s policy position not to allow manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of ISDs to derive commercial gains from enabling access to content from unauthorised sources. The report proposes for new legislative provisions to be introduced to impose civil and criminal liability on people who wilfully make, import for sale, commercially distribute or sell devices which enable access to content from unauthorised sources.

The Ministry of Law set out their clear policy position against ISDs as follows:

  • “Our policy position is not to allow commercial gains derived from enabling access to content from unauthorised sources.”
  • “we will not allow … retailers to commercially benefit if they knowingly deal with set-top boxes that are enabled to allow access to content from unauthorised sources”
  • “or if they deal with set-top boxes and provide “add-on” services, such as website links or subscription services etc., that enable access to content from unauthorised sources.”
  • “Further, similar (criminal) actions should be possible against service providers who do not sell devices …
  • but instead sell software, or otherwise enables devices to access content from unauthorised sources (e.g., on devices that a consumer already owns…).”

Additional Reports:

Singapore Government to amend the Copyright Act (CA)

Singapore Copyright Review Report 2019

Download or Stream from legitimate sources only.
Video courtesy of Globe.