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Experts split over whether Android box apps are banned

Experts split over whether Android box apps are banned

Source: Straits Times
Date Published: 29 Nov 2018
Author: Irene Tham

Issue follows court order to block more illegal streaming websites.

While some industry experts are hailing news of the recent High Court move to order more piracy websites to be blocked as a ban on certain streaming applications preloaded on Android boxes, others are not so sure.

They say blocking a website means preventing access and cutting off links. But there is no outright ban on the apps or the boxes, which are popular as they give Internet users access to content from all over the world.

On Nov 2, the High Court ordered eight new piracy websites and any others related to them to be blocked, bringing the total number of such websites blocked to just over 60 since amended copyright rules kicked in four years ago.

Three weeks later, Hong Kong-based trade body Asia Video Industry Association (Avia) announced that illegal streaming apps on Android TV boxes have been banned in Singapore with the latest ruling.

The Avia statement issued last Friday did not mention the eight blocked domain names which had illegally streamed content, much of which was in Chinese. Instead, it stated: "The High Court ordered Singapore's Internet service providers to block access to popular illegal applications that are frequently sold preloaded on Android TV boxes.

"These apps, which flagrantly infringe copyright by acting as gateways to websites streaming pirated content, are preloaded on TV boxes which are overtly sold in retail outlets such as Sim Lim Square, IT exhibitions and on popular e-markets."

Avia's interpretation of the High Court ruling was reported by some media outlets.

The statement also carried a quote from Mr Louis Boswell, Avia's chief executive, saying: "Avia welcomes the court's decision to block access to such popular ISD (illicit streaming device) applications. We have always maintained that illicit streaming devices are illegal in Singapore."

The decision to block the eight piracy websites came after an application filed last month by Singtel and copyright holders Fox Networks Group Singapore, NGC Network Asia, Fox International Channels (US) and The Football Association Premier League.

These firms are members of Avia.

While all Internet service providers here have blocked the piracy sites as required, observers say only the links in the apps to the infringing sites are blocked. The apps that lead to these sites are themselves not banned.

Mr Harish Pillay of the non-profit Internet Society said: "Avia is adding its own spin to create fear, uncertainty and doubt."

A lawyer, who declined to be named, is concerned that Avia's "leap in logic" that Android TV box apps have been banned could prejudice a separate ongoing case against two Android TV box sellers.

In January this year, retail firms Synnex Trading and An-Nahl, and their directors, were hauled to court by pay-TV operators Singtel and StarHub, Fox Networks Group and the Premier League for allegedly infringing copyright by helping people access pirated content via media streaming boxes.

The complainant in the criminal case against Synnex Trading and An-Nahl is Mr Neil Gane, general manager of Avia's Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) unit. Formed in October last year, CAP's members include the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, which has StarHub and Singtel as members, as well as Fox, the Premier League and HBO Asia.


While all Internet service providers here have blocked the piracy sites as required, observers say only the links in the apps to the infringing sites are blocked. The apps that lead to these sites are themselves not banned.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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