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The Malaysian House of Representatives has passed amendments to copyright law that will strengthen the country’s deterrence against those who facilitate access to pirate content through illegal streaming. The changes, which cover both hardware and software, could result in jail terms of up to 20 years.
Laws that prohibit the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted content are common around the world, but the rise of streaming has sometimes revealed loopholes in the law.
Kodi devices equipped with hacking, illegal streaming apps, and similar tools have led legal scholars to attempt to enforce laws that do not contemplate the technology. In Malaysia, for example, it made a High Court ruling last May to determine that the sale and distribution of streaming devices configured for piracy does indeed violate copyright law. .
But Malaysia was far from finished. After previously informing the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that the economic harm to broadcasters and rights holders in the country was a “serious problem”, Malaysia said it had amendments on the table to fight more directly against illegal downloading, disposal, and sharing of access to copyrighted works.
House of Representatives passes copyright amendment bill
This week, Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2021 which, among other things, will more directly address the challenges of illegal streaming.
“Law 332 is amended to ensure that the copyright laws implemented will provide more effective protection in line with current demands and to meet the needs of business and stakeholders,” said Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi.
The changes focus on those involved in providing or facilitating illegal flows. The term “streaming technology” is referenced several times and, for the purposes of the law, this includes computer programs (applications and other software tools), devices (streaming equipment of all kinds) which in in whole or in part, are used to infringe the copyright in a protected work.
It remains to be seen how the changes will be used in practice, but the scope appears to be intentionally broad and could result in significant penalties for those who break the law.
Punishments for facilitators of illegal streaming
The first section of the amendment deals with those who “commit or facilitate the infringement” of copyright by making streaming technology for sale or rental, importing streaming technology, selling or by renting out (including offering, exhibiting or advertising for sale or rent), and / or owning or distributing streaming technology as part of a business.
It expands to include the distribution or offering to the public of a counterfeit streaming technology or service other than in the course of a business, to such an extent as “to such an extent as to affect in any way damaging the copyright owner ”.
Anyone who contravenes these amendments will be guilty of an offense and will be liable on conviction to a fine of at least 10,000 ringgits (US $ 2,377) but not more than two hundred thousand ringgits (US $ 47,545 ). In addition to the possibility of fines, there are also prison terms of up to 20 years imprisonment in the most serious cases.
Those who hope to use a corporate structure as a shield are also cautioned. When offenses are committed by a legal person or by a person associated in a company, any person, from directors to managers, will be considered guilty of the offense and may be charged jointly or severally, unless he can prove that ‘she was unaware and exercised due diligence to prevent the infringement.
Details of the changes can be found here (pdf)