Friday 28 March 2014

Multi-pronged approach in curbing online piracy: Ministry of Law

IN THEIR respective letters, Dr Edmund Lam ("Tune in to copyright protection"; Tuesday) and Mr Chen Yongjie ("Lax enforcement of music copyright laws"; last Saturday) raised valid concerns.

Online piracy is an international issue. It is a continual challenge to strike a balance between curbing online piracy and ensuring that content remains accessible on the Internet, not least to spur greater creativity.

Singapore adopts a multi-pronged approach in curbing piracy. Public education remains the primary and most important approach. It has to be a sustained effort.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore runs the Honour Intellectual Property programme, which comprises a series of outreach initiatives such as the World IP Day celebrations, to raise awareness and promote respect for intellectual property among youth and the public.

Encouraging legitimate avenues for online content delivery is another prong in our approach to curb online piracy.

Spotify, iTunes, SingTel's AMPed Music Service and others have introduced their services in Singapore over the past two years.

We will continue to work with the industry to make more of such services available for Singaporeans.

We have also taken note of the industry's concerns that prevalent online piracy is adversely affecting Singapore's creative industries, and are exploring how to enable rights holders to protect their rights more effectively against pirate websites that blatantly infringe copyright.

We will be undertaking a public consultation soon on the proposed approach.

We remain committed to building an environment where the hard work of creators will continue to be respected, while not stifling the flow of content.

Praveen Randhawa (Ms)
Deputy Director (Corporate Communications)
Ministry of Law
ST Forum, 27 Mar 2014

Sanctions not the answer

MUCH ink has been spilt on the state of current copyright laws and how they are inadequate in combating online piracy ("Lax enforcement of music copyright laws" by Mr Chen Yongjie, last Saturday; and "Clarify law and enforce it" by Mr Tan Yu Song, Thursday).

The frustration on the part of copyright owners is understandable, but it is not a problem unique to Singapore.

Prosecuting individual infringements is not so much an "administrative nightmare" as it is impractical.

The authorities are mindful of this - hence, the inclusion of criminal penalties under the amended Copyright Act in 2005 was primarily targeted at service providers or companies that thrive on piracy, which is also why the threshold of infringement on a "significant" scale exists.

Prosecuting every individual infringement gives rise to the question of whether it is justified to use a large amount of public monies to enforce the private property rights of a few individuals.

Stepping up enforcement through criminal sanctions is therefore unlikely to materialise, and the burden of enforcing copyrights would remain on the copyright holders rather than the Government.

Even in stepping up enforcement measures, it is crucial to prevent overreach by the copyright owners.

In order to succeed in a copyright claim, the work must exist in some material form and be original, among other criteria. A person may not have a valid copyright claim even if he believes he does.

For example, entertainment giant Viacom sent 100,000 take-down notices to YouTube in 2007, but not all the clips infringed copyright or were even copyrighted in the first place.

Non-discriminatory enforcement of copyright claims may lead to potential abuse by copyright holders simply trying out a "machine gun" approach in the hopes that some claims would be valid.

Ultimately, the use of sanctions to force compliance is misguided. Especially for copyright laws, relying on sanctions alone is not only impractical but also insufficient to produce a normative effect and deter piracy.

Therefore, we should not be too quick to discount the value of public education, industrial ethical codes, and increasing avenues for legitimate purchases of music and videos, all of which may help cultivate a moral attitude towards copyright laws.

Tan Kai Yun (Miss)
ST Forum, 27 Mar 2014

Bring copyright laws in line with global norms

WE REFER to Dr Edmund Lam's letter ("Tune in to copyright protection"; March 25) in response to Mr Chen Yongjie's letter ("Lax enforcement of music copyright laws"; March 22).

As the collective licensing body representing record companies in Singapore, the Recording Industry Performance Singapore (Rips) echoes the need for the introduction of public performance and full broadcast rights for sound recordings.

This will bring Singapore in line with long-established international norms, as well as allow for record companies to invest in local talent development and incentivise the establishment of a vibrant local platform for artists to flourish.

With the pervasiveness of high-speed Internet connectivity, rights owners are fighting a losing battle against rampant piracy.

In response to these challenges, various countries have already enacted laws to allow for more effective measures to be taken against online infringement, and Singapore should likewise also amend its Copyright Act.

At the same time, Rips remains committed to public education and engagement on copyright licensing.

In this regard, we note that Dr Lam mentioned in his letter that "when a commercial shop plays a CD for background music... these outlets do not need a licence" from Rips.

Copyright licences may, in fact, be required from Rips, depending on how the sound recordings are played and the methods used for packaging and delivering sound recording content. For example, if computerised music servers or other online delivery methods are used to deliver content from our repertoire, licences will typically be required from us.

Business owners should check if their suppliers of such computerised or online systems are so licensed.

Apart from reproduction licences for sound recordings, Rips also administers licences for public performance of music videos and karaoke videos.

Members of the public are welcome to inquire with us if they have any questions relating to the use of sound recordings.

Barbara Wong (Ms)
General Manager
Recording Industry Performance Singapore
ST Forum, 5 Apr 2014

Clarify law and enforce it

AS A musician, I fully understand Mr Chen Yongjie's frustration at the lack of strict enforcement of music copyright laws ("Lax enforcement of music copyright laws"; last Saturday).

The State has to implement more stringent checks on non-payment of music copyright dues.

Addressing the widespread illegal downloading of music, however, is much more onerous.

First, the problem is prevalent because of the low risk of individual prosecution.

Since 2005, it has been a criminal offence to download music illegally for personal use, but only if the infringement is "significant".

The result of allowing this ambiguity to persist is that many have got away with it.

Second, illegal downloading of music has become a social norm. Being in the majority engenders the "safety net" mentality ("They can't possibly jail all of us, right?").

This could also explain why the law is not being strictly enforced. Throwing a lot of people into jail or fining them would be an administrative nightmare.

Various solutions have been mooted, such as site-banning and public education - both of which are ineffectual.

Site-banning is analogous to banning knives to prevent murders; if murderers can find other weapons, illegal downloaders can find other sites.

Similarly, the effectiveness of public education is limited; it will never provide a sufficiently strong deterrent.

Prosecution is key, since the fear of it is incontrovertibly effective in Singapore.

However, the law should first be clarified. The keyword "significant" should be clearly defined or even removed.

Thereafter, enforcement should be stepped up. A transition period could be implemented to give individuals time to remove their illegal music collections.

Only when individuals are prosecuted can the "safety net" mindset be changed, and Singapore be seen as an intellectual property hub.

Tan Yu Song
ST Forum, 27 Mar 2014

Tune in to copyright protection

MR CHEN Yongjie suggested that music copyright organisations are not effective in enforcing the rights of their members, especially in licensing commercial retailers and eateries ("Lax enforcement of music copyright laws"; last Saturday).

The Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) has been largely successful in the promotion and protection of the copyright interest of its members, who are composers, lyricists and music publishers.

Through education and dialogue with various industry bodies, nearly all commercial retailers and restaurants have taken up an annual licence from Compass to broadcast background music or perform music live.

For a minority of outlets infringing copyright law, we take a calibrated approach - preferring to use legal action only as a last resort if counselling and warnings fail.

However, under the existing Copyright Act, sound recordings of musical works are not accorded any public performance or broadcast rights. For example, when a commercial shop plays a CD for background music, its only legal obligation is to obtain the consent of the composers, through Compass, of the musical works embedded within the CD. These outlets do not need a licence from the Recording Industry Performance Singapore, as claimed by Mr Chen.

Unfortunately, the same respect for copyright by these commercial outlets has not been extended to the online world. Rampant illegal downloading of music, movies and books remains a serious threat to the creative industries.

Creators of original works need to be fairly remunerated.

The music industry has been urging the introduction of public performance and broadcast rights for sound recordings. This would compensate the significant effort expended to produce a music recording.

We also need to amend the Copyright Law to allow copyright owners to legally apply to a relevant authority to block illegal sites flouting copyright, which I had advocated previously ("Be global leader in fighting piracy"; Oct 23, 2013).

The music industry has already ensured that an array of legal music services are affordable and easily accessible to the public. YouTube, AMPed, Spotify, KKBOX and iTunes are such services, and more are expected to be launched soon.

Educating our young to respect intellectual property is still the way forward. The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, in collaboration with the creative communities, has embarked on various public education initiatives, especially in schools.

Ultimately, we have to impress upon society that respect for intellectual property is essential for the progress of science and useful arts.

Edmund Lam (Dr)
Chief Executive Officer & Director
Composers and Authors Society of Singapore
ST Forum, 25 Mar 2014

Lax enforcement of music copyright laws

I HAVE read reports and heard people talk about illegal music downloads ("1 in 2 S'poreans downloads illegal music, videos: Poll"; Wednesday).

Musicians put in much time and effort to create works from scratch, especially independent music creators who spend money on recording studios and other equipment just to produce a single track.

Too many people take them for granted and do not understand their pain. To them, music is free and it is easy to compose a song.

As a music director, I know how easy it is to find out if people are downloading music illegally and if commercial organisations are paying their music copyright dues.

But no government body is tackling this problem despite Singapore being a "top intellectual property hub" in the region.

In Malaysia, music copyright organisations do thorough checks on commercial retailers and eateries.

Another article ("Music royalties - 7 in 10 shops not paying up: Study"; June 8, 2013) said seven out of 10 commercial entities infringe the Copyright Act by playing background music without paying for the appropriate licence.

It is not just the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore licensing fee that they need to pay; most also need to pay a fee to the Recording Industry Performance Singapore.

But nothing much is being done. I wonder what type of mindset we are cultivating with respect to copyrights.

Chen Yongjie
ST Forum, 22 Mar 2014

1 in 2 Singaporeans download illegal music, videos: Poll
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 19 Mar 2014

MORE than half of Singaporeans download music and videos illegally, even while they condemn piracy as a form of theft.

A survey of 900 people last year by Singapore-based research consultancy Sycamore Research and Marketing showed that 61 per cent of people here aged 16 to 64 download movies and videos illegally over the Internet. And 17 per cent do so at least once a week.

This is even though 66 per cent conceded what they were doing was stealing.

Over 180 people from the media and creative industries were told of the findings yesterday at an event at GV Grand cinema.

Mr Ang Kwee Tiang, regional director of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said the local music recording industry was in dire straits and urged responsible online behaviour. What was an almost $90 million industry in 1997 made just $20 million in 2012, Mr Ang said.

This despite the availability of "legal and reasonably priced alternatives in Singapore" like Amped, a streaming service, and Rdio, an Internet radio service, he added.

He called for quick steps to make illegal content less available - a challenge when most illegal content is easily accessible and hosted overseas.

Piracy is rampant among youth in particular, with seven out of 10 between the ages of 16 and 24 downloading illegal content.

Some said piracy has become such a social norm that they do not think twice about it.

"Everybody does it and everybody is used to it, so it doesn't feel like a crime," said a 29-year-old marketing manager, who visits piracy site The Pirate Bay to download United States TV shows at least twice a week.


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