Singapore copyright reform – One step forward two steps back

In our article on 5 Best VPNs for Singapore, we looked at how Singapore has signed up for both the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP), both international pieces of legislation spearheaded by the United States, both of which contain some very harsh anti-copyright infringement measures, and both which have caused considerable alarm among observers.

In addition to this, Singapore’s national Copyright Act was amended in 2005 to allow people found guilty of using pirated software or downloading copyrighted material to be jailed for up to six months and fined for up to S$20,000 (approx. US$16,000) for a first offence, and jailed for up to three years and fined S$50,000 (approx. US$40,000) for repeated offences.

Into this already very strict anti-copyright infringement legal environment, Singapore’s Ministry of Law  has been mulling further changes to the Copyright Act, aimed at screwing down even tighter on copyright piracy.

The good news is that it has rejected a graduated response (‘three strikes’) system on the failed French Hadopi Law model (or the US CAS scheme), on the grounds that  such a system ‘may not be suitable in Singapore’s context as they are too intrusive on internet users.’

This is great news, but it is unfortunately overshadowed by the main alternative proposal in the public consultation paper, that of implementing blocks on web sites accused of promoting piracy, such as The Pirate Bay. This is a practice that has become increasingly popular in Europe, and especially the UK, and which has come under sharp criticism for its arbitrary nature and the stifling effect such censorship has on creativity.

VPN is of course an effective way to evade such blocks, something even the Law Ministry admits,

‘No measure, no matter how well it is designed, can deny access to all illegal content. It is also important to note that regulatory measures alone are not sufficient to address the issue of online piracy holistically.’

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

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