Singapore’s Amended Anti-Piracy Copyright Act Enables Streamlined Site-Blocking

Singapore Parliament just passed an anti-piracy amendment to its Copyright Act, which aims to block “flagrantly infringing online location” such as The Pirate Bay and KickAssTorrent. According to the new bill, which will come into force at the end of August, copyright holders can now submit an application to the High Court to order an ISP to block the offending website under § 193A of the amended Copyright Act.

Under the new regime, the High Court will determine “whether an online location has been or is being used to flagrantly commit or facilitate copyright infringement in materials” based on certain non-exhaustive factors, including (1) whether the primary purpose of the site is to commit or facilitate copyright infringment; (2) whether the site makes available or contains directories, indexes or categories of infringing materials; (3) whether the owner or operator of the site demonstrates disregard for copyright protection; (4) whether the site has been disabled by court orders from other jurisdictions as results of copyright infringements; (5) whether the site contains instructions to circumvent measures to disable access to the site; and (6) the volume of traffic to the site.

Currently, copyright holders can request ISPs to block infringing content on a case-by-case take down notice. However, the ISPs are not obliged to act on the notices. Alternatively, the owners can sue ISPs for copyright infringement or seek injunctive relief in court, but that means time and money. The new bill provides them with an express lane to take down the content or block the hosting site within eight weeks, if the High Court signals a green light.

This legislative move has been welcomed by copyright holders internationally after its approval in Parliament. However, several ISPs have questioned  practical aspects of the implementation of the new law. In particular, it is unclear how the courts will specify the blocking mechanism (e.g. by domain names or Internet Protocol (IP) address blocking). The costs may vary considerably for ISPs depending on the blocking mechanism chosen by courts, possibly shifting the economic burden of copyright enforcement on ISPs.

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