Facts

On 2 November 2018, the Singapore High Court granted a site-blocking order under Section 193DDA(1) of the Singapore Copyright Act (Cap. 63) (the Act), for the Defendant network service providers to take reasonable steps to disable access to Flagrantly Infringing Online Locations (FIOLs) comprising 8 servers. The Plaintiffs are SingNet Pte Ltd, The Football Association Premier League Limited, and Fox entities who engage in the production, distribution, broadcasting, licensing and / or marketing of content including various channels and live football matches.

The application concerned Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) that operate on the Android operating system and run various applications and video streaming services. The ISDs are pre-installed with software applications that allow users to stream programmes without the authorisation of the Plaintiffs (the Infringing Apps).

The FIOLs performed the following functionalities:

  1. Authenticating whether a user using an Infringing App to request for the streaming services is authorised (i.e., whether the user is paying a subscription fee) (the Authentication Server); and
  2. After the user has been authenticated via the Authentication Server, retrieving the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), which is a software application used to provide users with a menu of programmes available on each channel, and which directs the user to the relevant streaming server from which the copyrighted content may be accessed (the EPG Server (EPGS)).

The High Court granted the following orders:

  1. For the Defendants to take reasonable steps to disable access by its subscribers to a list of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), IP addresses and domain names which were being used to enable or facilitate access to the FIOLs (the Main Injunction); and
  2. An order requiring the Defendants to block new URLs and domain names discovered subsequent to the granting of the Main Injunction, which provided access to the same FIOLs that were the subject of the Main Injunction (the Dynamic Injunction).

Similar blocking orders were granted by the High Court earlier this year in DisneyEnterprises, Inc. & Others v M1 Ltd & Others [2018] SGHC 206 in respect of piracy websites.

The High Court's ruling follows two recent Australian decisions in Roadshow Films Pty Limited v. Telstra Corporation Limited [2018] FCA 582 and Television Broadcasts Limited v. Telstra Corporation Limited [2018] FCA 1434, where the Federal Court of Australia granted site-blocking orders against servers that performed identical functions as the Authentication Servers and EPGSs.

Comments

The Singapore High Court's decision is significant as it marks the first time that site-blocking orders in this jurisdiction have been granted against FIOLs comprising servers. Such orders have hitherto only been granted in respect of infringing websites.

The ruling thus usefully clarifies that an "online location", which is not defined under the Act, is not limited to websites, but can include servers such as Authentication Servers and EPGSs.

This is a welcome development for rights holders, who can now utilise the siteblocking framework as an avenue to combat the increasingly ubiquitous use of ISDs to access infringing content, by blocking the servers that facilitate access to such content.

The granting of the Dynamic Injunction further re-affirms that rights holders may seek orders that effectively deal with circumventive measures taken by the infringers.

Finally, the decision ensures that the site-blocking regime in Singapore keeps in step with advancements in technology and the constantly evolving means of infringing copyright.

Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow acted for the Plaintiffs in this matter.

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