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In an unprecedented case, a group of rights owners — including telcos here — have sought a private prosecution against two companies and their directors for selling legitimate set-top boxes which give users unbridled access to copyrighted programmes.

Lawyers whom TODAY spoke to said the case could be a landmark, as it provides an opportunity for the court to clarify its legal positions on the law concerning set-top boxes which do not store or decrypt copyrighted content.

When contacted at the time, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) reaffirmed its stance that only set-top boxes with decoding capabilities are illegal. The devices highlighted in (the 2014 incident) were designed to decode encrypted broadcast signals, allowing users full access to TV programmes without paying subscription fees.

In such a scenario, copyright infringement is an issue as the devices were used in a manner that is illegal,” it said.

Lawyer Gino Singh said trademark cases where a company sues another for selling copied goods are usually fought this way as well, starting from a Magistrate’s Complaint.

Intellectual property (IP) lawyers whom TODAY spoke to noted that it is not unusual for IP cases to proceed under private prosecution.

Apart from content producers, rights owners of different industries — such as fashion houses or drinks manufacturers for example — have been known to cooperate with one another to bring prosecution against alleged offenders, said Mr Gilbert Leong, a lawyer from Dentons Rodyk.

“It shows that as an industry, they are concerned,” he added.

“What are predominantly sold in Sim Lim Square and at Singapore’s many IT exhibitions are illicit streaming devices preloaded with piracy enabling applications.

They are not ‘empty’ and therefore ‘legal’ boxes,” he said.

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