Content industry players want stiffer penalties against digital piracy

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian content industry players have said that the current penalty for committing acts of digital piracy doesn’t commensurate with the huge economic losses suffered by the content providers.

They said that the annual loss due to digital piracy is estimated at RM3bil to the entertainment and media industry, RM500mil in taxes and puts thousands of jobs at risk.

While they lauded the authorities for recent action against digital piracy in Malaysia, they appealed for the government to carry out a thorough review of the existing regulations.

They claim that these regulations currently do not fully enforce, convict, deter infringements; nor does it provide copyright holders with sufficient protection for their creative works against digital piracy.

“Eradication of digital piracy to ensure that only responsible content is streamed requires collaborative efforts of all parties from content providers, broadcasters, regulators, authorities and consumers, to telcos, internet service and e-commerce providers.

“In particular, there is an urgent need to address key enablers of digital piracy such as ineffective blocking of illegal streaming sites over the internet and ISDs being openly sold on e-commerce platforms, ” they said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 23).

Renowned producer and director Datuk Yusof Haslam said that without resolve from the relevant authorities, digital piracy would not be curbed.

“This act of theft is not new and has to be resolved by the authorities. I regret to see empty rhetoric without a real solution to the problem. Without stricter regulations, piracy will continue to be a cancer to the creative industry and its talents, ” he said in the statement.

On Feb 8, an IT company in Shah Alam was the first company to be charged in court under the Copyright Act 1987 for selling technology or equipment for the purpose of the circumvention of technological protection measures.

The director of the company pleaded guilty and is waiting for the court’s sentence on March 1.

On Feb 16, a 46-year-old woman pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing six TV media boxes that allowed illegal streaming of Astro’s content via the internet.

She was fined RM30,000 under Section 232(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, making her the first illicit streaming device (ISD) seller to be charged under this provision.

Astro regulatory director Laila Saat said they welcomed recent charges against sellers of Illicit Streaming Devices (ISD) and will continue to work with authorities and content partners to send a strong message that content piracy is theft, illegal and punishable by law.

“Piracy has become so pervasive that many have forgotten it is theft. Piracy is the biggest scourge of the industry, stealing from every single person in the creative ecosystem from actors, writers, producers, directors and cameramen, thus hampering development.

“If piracy is left unchecked, it will retard the entertainment industry as it doesn’t make economic sense for anyone to create or invest in premium content like rights to the ‘FIFA World Cup’, only to have them stolen and used illegally, ” she said.

Zahrin Aris, honorary secretary of Persatuan Penerbit Filem (PFM) said that the penalty for those who use media boxes loaded with unauthorised apps is too light as the value of content being pirated was definitely higher than the fine of only RM30,000.

“The penalty imposed should reflect how severe the act of piracy impacts the industry and the act of fuelling piracy, in terms of monetisation or remuneration should also be monitored and penalised, ” said chief marketing officer of Star Media Group Lam Swee Kim.

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