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Seller of Android streaming box fined S$1,200 in landmark case

SINGAPORE – The director of a company that sold Android streaming boxes has been fined S$1,200 in the first such case of its kind.

Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, the director of a company that sold Android streaming boxes, was fined S$1,200 for infringing the Copyright Act.

Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, the director of a company that sold Android streaming boxes, was fined S$1,200 for infringing the Copyright Act.

SINGAPORE – The director of a company that sold Android streaming boxes has been fined S$1,200 in the first such case of its kind.

Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, who is the director of trading firm An-Nahl, is one of two retailers who were charged under the Copyright Act in January last year for selling these devices.

Abdul Nagib pleaded guilty to one count of willfully authorising copyright infringement on Wednesday (April 24). Another charge under the Copyright Act for possessing 12 Android TV boxes capable of making copies of copyrighted content was taken into consideration for the sentencing.

Abdul Nagib, 58, and his company had initially been served two charges each for stocking 12 Android TV boxes at his shop in Tanjong Katong Complex, and helping a customer use the device to make unauthorised copies of English Premier League matches and Fox programmes in May 2017.

The charges against his company were discharged amounting to an acquittal.

The case had been launched by Mr Neil Kevin Gane who acted on behalf of rights-holders Singtel, Starhub, Fox Networks Group and the Premier League.

Mr Gane is the managing director of IPT Solutions, a Hong Kong-based security and brand protection consultancy firm, and the general manager of the Coalition Against Piracy — an anti-piracy group set up under Casbaa, a trade association for the video industry in the Asia Pacific.

In January last year, Abdul Nagib, who was then represented by lawyer Chia Boon Teck, had informed the court that he and his company intended to claim trial.

However, the court heard on Wednesday that both parties had agreed to a settlement during their last hearing on April 15.

WHY IT MATTERS

This was the first time an Android streaming box seller had been brought to court by private prosecutors.

Unlike set-top boxes which contain decoders allowing viewers to watch pay-TV content for free, illicit streaming devices such as Android TV boxes do not contain decoders.

Instead they rely on pre-installed subscription-based applications such as “MyIPTV” and “Huat88TV”.  

The applications require a yearly subscription and provide users with access to unauthorised live TV channels and video-on-demand content.

While the law has made it clear that set-top boxes which contain decoders are illegal, it had been less clear on Android streaming boxes, which are commonly found in electronic goods shops, such as those at Sim Lim Square.

HOW THE ANDROID STREAMING BOXES WERE SOLD

The court heard that the Android streaming boxes sold at Abdul Nagib’s store at Tanjong Katong Complex were supplied by Synnex Trading.

Synnex Trading and its director Jia Xiaofeng also face four charges each under the Copyright Act.

Abdul Nagib would receive a commission of S$20 to S$25 from Jia for every box sold. He would receive another S$5 commission for each time a box was activated.

To activate the Android TV boxes, a customer would have to buy a yearly subscription from Abdul Nagib.

His wife would then send a picture of the membership number displayed on the set-top box to Jia, who would then activate the device for the customer.

The activation allowed the user to access a variety of channels provided by streaming services. The content streamed is copyrighted and not authorised by its right holders or copyright holders.

If customers had any issues with their Android TV boxes, or had to renew their subscription, Abdul Nagib would send the boxes back to Jia for servicing.

A raid by the police on An-Nahl on May 23, 2017 found 12 unactivated Android TV boxes on the premises.

The prosecution, led by Mr Andy Leck of Wong & Leow LLC, told the court that copyright infringement occurred as the boxes automatically stored copies of copyrighted content in its random access memory when used.

Although these copies — which are required to speed up the loading of the content — are transient, it still amounted to reproducing copyrighted material, he argued.

NOT THE MAIN PERPETRATOR

Abdul Nagib’s lawyer, Mr Srijit Jeshua, however, argued that Abdul Nagib was not the “main perpetrator”.  

He and his wife had been introduced to Jia and Zhao Liang of Synnex in June 2016, when they made arrangements to sell the Android TV boxes. Zhao Liang’s role in the company was not specified in court documents.

When Abdul Nagib and his wife enquired about its legality, Jia and Zhao Liang informed them that the content provided by these boxes was licensed by Astro Malaysia.

They said that the yearly subscription paid by consumers would go to Astro Malaysia.

Mr Srijit also highlighted that Abdul Nagib had only agreed to sell the Android TV boxes in order to help Synnex temporarily.

He urged the court to consider a lighter sentence as Abdul Nagib had already been “punished” by having to sell his house to finance the law suit.

In a statement to the media on behalf of the rights-holders, a spokesman from the Premier League said: “We view this outcome as a welcome development and continue to stand against piracy to protect the intellectual property of content and copyright owners.”

A pre-trial conference for the case against Synnex and Jia will be held in July, with the trial expected to begin in November.

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