Malaysia's entertainment and media industry has been estimated to lose RM3 billion annually due to digital piracy, with RM500 million in taxes and thousands of jobs at risk. Industry players from Malaysian entertainment and media scene have appealed to the Malaysian government to carry out a thorough review of the existing regulations, which they currently claim does not fully enforce, convict, deter infringements; nor does it provide copyright holders with sufficient protection for their creative works against digital piracy. A+M has reached out for additional information.
On 16 February, a woman pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing six TV media boxes which allowed for illegal streaming of Astro’s content via the internet. The accused was later fined RM30,000. Meanwhile on 8 February, an IT company in Shah Alam was the first company to be charged in court for selling technology or equipment for the purpose of the circumvention of technological protection measure. The director pleaded guilty and is waiting for the court’s sentence on 1 March.
According to Zahrin Aris, honorary secretary of Persatuan Penerbit Filem, the penalty for individuals who use media boxes loaded with unauthorised apps "is too light" because the value of the content being pirated is "definitely higher than the fine of only RM30,000". Hence, Zahrin said the penalty should be heavier.
At the same time, SMG Entertainment's CMO Lam Swee Kim said the penalty 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.
Astro's director, regulatory, Laila Saat, said it welcomes the recent charges brought against sellers of ISDs and will continue to work with authorities and content partners to send a strong message that content piracy is theft, illegal and punishable by law.
Piracy is the biggest scourge of the industry, stealing from every single person in the creative ecosystem from actors, writers, producers, directors and cameraman, thus hampering development.
She added that if piracy is left unchecked, it "will retard the entertainment industry" as it does not make economic sense for anyone to create or invest in premium content such as rights to the FIFA World Cup, only to have them stolen and used illegally.
Agreeing with Laila in the joint statement was president of Persatuan Seniman Malaysia, Zed Zaidi, who said digital piracy enabled by ISD has long plagued the local creative industry. "We are hopeful that the recent charges is a new beginning for the industry and serve as landmark cases; and providing justice for the local creative players, who are the victims of this criminal act," Zed said.
At the same time, industry players also said in the joint statement that eradication of digital piracy to ensure that only responsible content is streamed requires collaborative efforts of all parties from content providers, broadcasters, regulators, authorities and consumers, to telcos, internet service and eCommerce providers.
"In particular, there is an urgent need to address key enablers of digital piracy such as ineffective blocking of illegal streaming sites over the internet and illicit streaming devices (ISDs) being openly sold on eCommerce platforms," the statement added. For example, Shopee Malaysia clarified last August that it has no part in creating the contents of listings and that the sellers on its platform are independent individuals or businesses who are not associated with Shopee. This followed an Astro AWANI report about the National Film Development Corporation investigating the sale of pirated local films on eCommerce platforms.
Photo courtesy: 123RF