Higher penalties needed for digital piracy

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by TMR FILE

THE current penalty for offences related to digital piracy and infringement of creative rights does not seem to be commensurate with the losses of up to RM3 billion that content providers have to endure.

According to a joint statement by several major players in the creative industry, digital piracy has also robbed the government off some RM500 million in government taxes while putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Star Media Group chief marketing officer Lam Swee Kim said the penalty being imposed should reflect how severe the act of piracy impacts the industry and the act of fuelling piracy in terms of monetisation or remuneration should also be monitored and penalised.

The authorities are also urged to take action against key enablers of digital piracy by blocking illegal streaming sites over the Internet and illicit streaming devices (ISDs) that are being openly sold on e-commerce platforms.

Malaysian Film Producers Association honorary secretary Zahrin Aris said the penalty is too light and needs to be heavier.

“The penalty for those who use media boxes loaded with unauthorised apps is too light. The penalty should be heavier. The value of content being pirated is definitely higher than the fine of only RM30,000,” Zahrin said.

Eradicating digital piracy requires collaborative efforts by all parties from content providers, broadcasters, regulators, authorities and consumers to telecommunication companies, Internet service and e-commerce providers. Such effort would only allow responsible content to be streamed.

On Feb 8, 2021, an IT company was the first to be charged in court under Section 41(1)(ha) of the Copyright Act 1987 for selling technology or equipment for the purpose of the circumvention of technological protection measure referred to in subsection 36A(3) of the same Act.

The action was spearheaded by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs deputy public prosecutor.

The company’s director has pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting the court’s sentence.

In the same month, a 46-year-old woman was charged with the possession of six media television boxes, allowing the illegal streaming of Astro’s content via the Internet.

The accused was fined RM30,000 under Section 232(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, making her the ISD seller to be charged under this provision.

The stern action is lauded by the local content industry as a great move to curb digital piracy that has been happening in the country for a while now.

Producer and director Datuk Yusof Haslam said without the resolve and effort of relevant authorities, the crimes would not have been stopped.

“This act of theft is not new and has to be resolved by the authorities. I regret to see empty rhetoric without a real solution to the problem. Without stricter regulations, piracy will continue to be cancer to the creative industry and its talents,” he said.

Astro regulatory director Laila Saat said the industry also welcomes the recent charges brought against sellers of ISD and will continue working with authorities in sending out the message.

“Piracy has become so pervasive that many have forgotten that it is theft and is the biggest scourge of the industry, stealing from every single person in the creative ecosystem from actors, writers, producers, directors and cameramen, thus hampering development.

“If piracy is left unchecked, it will retard the entertainment industry as it doesn’t make economic sense for anyone to create or invest in premium content,” Laila said.