Industry calls for stiffer penalties against digital piracy amid annual losses of RM3b

Industry calls for stiffer penalties against digital piracy amid annual losses of RM3b
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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 23): The local entertainment and media industry is losing an estimated RM3 billion annually due to digital piracy, industry players said today. 

In a joint statement, they said digital piracy also deprives the government of RM500 million in tax revenue every year, and puts thousands of jobs at risk.

The statement was issued to laud the authorities for the recent action against digital piracy in Malaysia.  

Astro Malaysia regulatory director Laila Saat said digital 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. 

“If piracy is left unchecked, it will retard the entertainment industry as it doesn’t make economic sense for anyone to create or invest in premium content like rights to the FIFA World Cup, only to have them stolen and used illegally,” she said.. 

“We welcome the recent charges brought against sellers of illicit streaming devices (ISD) 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,” she added.  

On Feb 8, an IT company in Shah Alam became the first company to be prosecuted under Section 41 (1) (ha) of the Copyright Act 1987 for selling technology or equipment for the purpose of the circumvention of technological protection measures. 

The company’s director pleaded guilty and is waiting for the court’s sentence on March 1. 

Meanwhile on Feb 16, a 46-year-old woman pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing six TV media boxes which allows illegal streaming of Astro’s content via the internet. The accused was fined RM30,000 under Section 232(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, making her the first ISD seller to be charged under this provision.

Renowned film producer and director Datuk Yusof Haslam said without resolve from the relevant authorities, digital piracy will not be curbed.

“This act of theft is not new and has to be resolved by the authorities. I regret to see empty rhetoric without real solution to the problem. Without stricter regulations, piracy will continue to be a cancer to the creative industry and its talents,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Persatuan Penerbit Filem (PFM) honorary secretary Zahrin Aris said the penalty for those who use media boxes loaded with unauthorised apps is too light. 

“The penalty should be heavier. The value of content being pirated is definitely higher than the fine of only RM30,000,” he said. 

Star Media Group chief marketing officer 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."

The industry players appealed to the government to carry out a thorough review of the existing regulations, which they said do not deter infringements. The current regulations also do not provide copyright holders with sufficient protection for their creative works against digital piracy, they said.

“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 ISDs being openly sold on ecommerce platforms,” they added.

S Kanagaraju