CASBAA: Industry Calls for Action Against Smart Piracy Devices

Vivienne Chow

Content industry players in Asia this week called for an update of copyright laws around the region to fight against illicit streaming devices and mobile apps.

Speaking at a panel debate industry on Tuesday executives said illicit streaming devices and apps pose as legitimate services. That meant consumers cannot tell if they were subscribing to authorized or pirated services.

The debate was part of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia annual convention which is being held in Macau for the first time at Studio City.

Avigail Gutman, program director, operational security with CISCO, said these streaming devices aggregate content from hundreds of channels illegally, but they were charging consumers subscription fees. “They don’t pay for the content and yet they are making a huge profit. The service is attractive to end users as they pay so little,” she said. “In Asia, consumers don’t even know they are consuming pirated products.”

Desmond Chan, deputy general manager of Hong Kong broadcaster TVB, said that it has sought to counter pirate platforms by launching its own OTT services. He said MyTV Super, targeted at Hong Kong, already has over 1 million subscribers since its launch in April, while TVB Anywhere is aimed at overseas users and was launched just two months ago.

“We offer services at low fees hoping that viewers can come back from the illicit streaming devices,” he said.

Gutman said local legislation must catch up with technology, but that development in varies across Asia.

According to a paper published by CISCO, the sale of streaming devices pre-loaded with copyright infringing apps was considered a criminal offence by South Korean courts in 2015. On Monday (November 7), Singapore completed a three-month public consultation on a proposal to review the copyright regime.

“It’s a cat and mouse game. We still need to find a solution to stop people from uploading our content. I advocate for criminal liability for uploading content illegally,” Chan said.

But the situation for Hong Kong was depressing, according to Chan and John Medeiros, chief policy officer of CASBAA.

Last year, CASBAA and other industry players pushed for an amendment of copyright law in Hong Kong to fight online piracy, but the mission failed in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Reviving it amid the current political chaos in Hong Kong, which sees pro-Beijing, pro-democracy and pro-independence battles extend to all areas of policy reviving the copyright bill amendment seems out of reach.

“There’s no hope for a copyright law reform now. We’re looking instead into a review of the Broadcasting Ordinance or to expand the scope of piracy under the current copyright law,” Chan said.

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