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2 Android TV box sellers taken to court by telcos, Fox and Premier League

SINGAPORE — Two Android TV box sellers have been charged on Friday (Jan 12) with "wilfully infringing" copyright, in a private prosecution case launched by telcos Singtel and StarHub, as well as entertainment giant Fox and the organising body of the English Premier League.

2 Android TV box sellers taken to court by telcos, Fox and Premier League

Synnex Trading's director Jia Xiaofeng and An-Nahl’s director Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz have been charged with copyright infringement. Photos: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Two Android TV box sellers have been charged on Friday (Jan 12) with "wilfully infringing" copyright, in a private prosecution case launched by telcos Singtel and StarHub, as well as entertainment giant Fox and the organising body of the English Premier League (EPL).

Singapore distributor Synnex Trading, which makes regular appearances at IT fairs, and its director Jia Xiaofeng, were each served four charges.

One is over their possession of 104 media boxes, which are "specifically designed and adapted" for making copies of copyrighted content last May at its shop in Geylang.

Three other charges are for allegedly helping customers make "unauthorised copies" of programmes or films in May, August and September last year. They include EPL football matches, as well as programmes on cable channels such as Star Sports, Astro, TVB, and National Geographic.

Another retailer An-Nahl, which used to carry Synnex's set-top boxes, and its director Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, were served two charges each for stocking 12 set-top boxes at its shop in Tanjong Katong Complex, and helping a customer use the media box to make unauthorised copies of EPL matches and Fox programmes last May.

Each charge that the defendants face carries a punishment of up to six months' jail, or a fine of up to S$20,000.

Nagib told District Judge Adam Nakhoda that he intends to claim trial and will be engaging a lawyer. Jia is discussing his next steps with his lawyer.

Nagib will next appear in court on Jan 26, while the cases involving Jia will be heard again on Feb 2.

Synnex and An-Nahl are the first set-top box retailers to be hauled to court over these charges in Singapore.

The outcome of the criminal proceedings against them could affect the rampant sales of these set-top boxes, which have become a feature on every floor of electronic goods mall Sim Lim Square and at IT fairs.

If any of the cases head to trial, intellectual property lawyers told TODAY that they would provide an opportunity for the court to clarify its legal positions on the laws concerning set-top boxes, which do not store or decrypt copyrighted content.

Listed as the complainant in these cases is Mr Neil Kevin Gane (pictured) who is acting on behalf of Singtel, StarHub, Fox Networks Group and the Premier League. The companies were represented by lawyers Andy Leck and Lim Ren Jun from Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow.

Mr Gane is the general manager of the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP). However, Mr Lim told reporters that the CAP is not involved in the case.

The issue of copyrighted content being transmitted on modified media boxes emerged some three to five years ago following a crackdown on the sale and distribution of decoders, which are illegal under the Broadcasting Act as they decrypted broadcasts offered by telecommunications and cable channel provider StarHub.

These new renditions of boxes often come pre-loaded with apps that let users stream pirated movies, television shows or sports programmes easily from sites, which do not belong to the sellers.

Synnex's boxes cost S$219 each. The company, which has a following of close to 60,000 on Facebook, also charges customers S$40 a year as server maintenance fees, and a one-time S$40 charge for on-demand content or television shows.

Members of CAP, which was formed last October, include the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) that lists StarHub and Singtel has members, as well as content providers such as The Walt Disney Company, HBO Asia, BBC Worldwide, and Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia.

Last month, Mr Gane voiced concerns on behalf of the coalition about the "overt sales" of set-top boxes in malls and IT fairs.

"What are predominantly sold in Sim Lim Square and at Singapore's many IT exhibitions are illicit streaming devices pre-loaded with piracy enabling applications. They are not 'empty' and therefore 'legal' boxes," he said.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the article stated that all parties involved in the case could not reach a settlement following the filing of a Magistrate's Complaint. This is incorrect. The parties did not discuss a settlement at any point in time. We are sorry for the error. 

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