The new Copyright Act – the death of online piracy?

On July 8 2014, the Singapore Parliament passed a bill amending the Copyright Act, aiming to give copyright owners greater ability to protect their content from the reaches of online piracy. The crux of the bill was to enable copyright owners (such as cable TV networks), exclusive licensees, and performers to apply for court orders (called blocking orders) directing network service providers (such as Singnet) to block access to online locations (such as a torrent directory like The Pirate Bay) which clearly and flagrantly infringe copyright.

These blocking orders are obtained with a direction application to the court, without a need to first establish liability on the part of the network service provider for copyright infringement. The receiving party will also have the right to appeal. Once the order has been granted, website owners can apply to revoke or vary the order by removing the copyright material and ceasing all infringing activities.

Previously, copyright owners needed to issue a take-down notice to the network service provider requesting the latter to disable access or remove the offending material. Due to the absence of any laws or regulations requiring providers to comply with this notices, they tended not to comply, leaving copyright owners with little remedy to their predicament. Alternatively, copyright owners could try to sue the providers, but most are reluctant to enter into drawn-out litigation.

The amended Copyright Act is expected to come into operation at the end of next month. Depending on whether the website owners contest the blocking order applications, the courts may take as little as two months to process the application and order network service providers like Singnet to block the offending sites.

It is not yet known whether the courts, in their issued blocking orders, would specify the blocking mechanism – be it domain names, or IP addresses.

The text of this Bill is accessible here. The new sections 193DDA, 193DDB, and 193DDC contain the provisions pertaining to the blocking order application available to copyright owners and exclusive licensees.

The Copyright Act is accessible here.

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