SINGAPORE - In the past, those looking to catch World Cup action without subscribing to cable channels would have bought an illegal set top decoder.
The one-time cost of these devices was much lower than paying monthly cable subscription fees for some.
But not any more.
Today, the use of such decoders has largely been curbed, thanks to revisions made in the Broadcasting Act in 2004.
These changes ban the use of unauthorised decoders in Singapore, and make sellers and buyers liable to civil action by content providers like Sing-Tel and StarHub.
The New Paper went undercover to enquire about illegal decoders at Sim Lim Square and were met with staff vigorously stressing that they do not sell them.
One of them was particularly animated, saying: "You want to buy decoders? Don't buy lah! You know it's illegal right? You'll get a very big fine if you get caught!"
Faced with the scarcity and difficulty of getting decoders, some football fans have turned to the Internet to watch the matches on their computers live via web streams.
These are readily available from various websites and can be viewed on Smart TVs, which are capable of connecting to the Internet.
The matches can also be streamed on mobile devices with the help of mobile applications.
But the viewing experience can be quite different from what cable TV offers.
The game commentary may also be in another language - like Russian or Spanish.
Mr Duong Dat, an 18-year-old student, said: "It is quite irritating when the commentator is talking non-stop in a language I can't understand."
"The video quality is also very bad."
The streaming quality is dependent on Internet speed. Indeed, a slower Internet speed will lead to lags, which may put off many fans.
Student Ahmad Osman, 20, who often streams Premier League matches online, said: "I've had a stream that was lagging two minutes behind the actual game time.
"People were talking about a goal on Twitter, but I had not even seen it yet!"
Web streaming a grey area
Under the Broadcasting act, both buyers and sellers of unauthorised set-top decoders are liable to a fine not exceeding $40,000 or a jail term not exceeding three years, or both.
The act also states that the lawful provider of the content may take civil action against anyone selling or using these unauthorised decoders.
Web streaming, though, is a grey area.
Mr Michael Lim, an intellectual property lawyer from Samuel Seow Law Corporation, said: "For web streams, the copyright infringement would largely fall on the side of the website owner or the person who is responsible for recording the broadcasted footage (rather) than the viewer at home.
"However, it would be a copyright infringement if the streamed footage is shown to a paying audience instead of being for personal consumption."
This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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