Proposed law could make ISPs block piracy websites

Proposed law could make ISPs block piracy websites

Singaporeans might see the end of illegal downloads from the infamous file-sharing site, The Pirate Bay.

Yesterday, the Law Ministry proposed new legislation that would allow content owners to get court orders compelling Internet service providers (ISPs) to block "flagrantly infringing" websites. It is set to be implemented by the end of the year.

Recent findings are that six in 10 people download movies and videos illegally online.

Lawyers said the amendment would make it easier for content providers, as the current process to block piracy sites is time consuming and costly, and could theoretically be dragged out over years and cost millions.

Now, rights holders can request ISPs to block pirated content. If the ISPs do not comply, the content owners can sue them for copyright infringement, which drags out the process, said Mr Matt Pollins, an associate at law firm Olswang Asia.

"Any claims that ISPs (infringe copyright), would have been contested very strongly by them here and around the world," he said.

The Government's proposal to tweak the Copyright Act would bypass this roadblock, as the rights holders can apply to the High Court directly to get all ISPs to block piracy sites. The process could take two months.

Since the ISPs are not sued for copyright infringement, "it greatly encourages them to cooperate with rights holders to disable access to foreign-based infringing sites", said the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's regional director for Asia, Mr Ang Kwee Tiang.

The Swiss-based trade organisation represents more than 1,000 producers and distributors of sound recordings. A report it published last year found that blocking piracy sites has been effective in greatly reducing their use in the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Italy and Britain.

The proposed legislation does not cover legitimate search engines and content-sharing sites such as Google and YouTube, said the Law Ministry in its statement. Whether file-uploading sites, such as Dropbox, are considered piracy sites would be determined by the court, The Straits Times understands.

The court will also decide if it is feasible for an ISP to block access to a piracy site that can be reached using virtual private networks (VPN). These are usually sites that are restricted to specific countries but the restrictions can be bypassed using a VPN.

The penalties for not complying with the proposed legislation are still being worked out.

Members of the public who want to provide feedback on the proposed legislation have until April 21 to do so. Details can be found at http://bit.ly/1ekIlbp

kennyc@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 8 in The Straits Times.

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