Malaysia’s Intellectual Property High Court declares the sale of illicit streaming devices as illegal

The Intellectual Property High Court deemed that the distribution of ISDs constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act 1987 and is punishable by law. —

PETALING JAYA: The sale, offer for sale, distribution and/or supply of television boxes or illicit streaming devices (ISDs) that can provide unauthorised access to copyrighted content has been declared as illegal by the Intellectual Property High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

The Intellectual Property High Court ruled that the distribution of ISDs constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act 1987 and is punishable by law.

Industry leaders in a joint statement hailed the judgment, which has been deemed as a landmark decision in the battle against digital piracy.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chief regulatory officer Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin said in a statement that MCMC welcomed the court’s decision as it would further strengthen the legal battle against copyright infringement and piracy, “especially in digital and networked forms,” he added.

The Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) deputy director general Zulkarnain Muhammad said MyIPO looks forward to seeing more cases related to ISDs brought to court.

“Prevalent and widespread use of ISDs cause far more economic harm than physical copyright piracy. These devices are part of a wider network of online copyright piracy, which will in the long run disincentivize original creators from producing creative work. Copyright piracy in any form should be curbed and deterred," he added.

The action in the Intellectual Property High Court was brought by Measat Broadcast Networks, the service provider for Astro, against a seller of ISDs preloaded with applications which act as gateways to websites or content servers streaming pirated content.

Astro regulatory director Laila Saat said the declaration sets a precedent for future civil claims on copyright infringement against ISD sellers in the market, including those on e-commerce platforms.

“This groundbreaking declaration will strengthen intellectual property protection in the country and ongoing anti-piracy efforts, which are pivotal to ensure continuous investment and job creation in Malaysia’s media and entertainment industry. We will continue to work with authorities and content partners to send a strong message that content piracy is theft, illegal and punishable by law,” she said.

National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) Dr Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nadzri expressed full support for the legal action taken by Astro against ISD sellers, adding that the corporation has also introduced measures to protect content creators in the industry.

“Finas has established the Digital Piracy Eradication Committee with the collective support and involvement of relevant law enforcement agencies to further empower and strengthen enforcement, regulations and the terms of distribution licences in line with the provisions under the FINAS Act 244 1981,” he said.

Louis Boswell, CEO of the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), said the Intellectual Property High Court has made the correct decision: “Content is not made for free, and it is the right of creators and distributors to charge for it. To circumvent this and steal it is theft.”

The estimated loss to the industry and Malaysian economy due to piracy is over RM3bil annually, with RM500mil in taxes and thousands of jobs at risk.

In recent months, criminal cases have been successfully brought against ISD retailers.

On Feb 16, a director of a mobile accessory company pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing TV media boxes that contains software to illegally stream Astro’s content online. She received a fine of RM30,000 under Section 232(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, making her the first ISD seller to be charged under the provision.

Meanwhile on Feb 8, a company director of an IT company was charged at the Shah Alam Sessions Court under Section 41(1) of the Copyright Act 1987 with promoting Android boxes, which allow the bypassing of technological protection measures on copyright broadcast work.

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