Singapore has passed a bill that will force internet service providers to block access to websites that provide copyright-infringing content.
Passed in parliament Tuesday, the approved amendments to the Copyright Act allow content rights holders to apply for court injunctions instructing network service providers to block such websites and without having to first establish liability for the copyright breach.
Affected website owners can appeal and apply to revoke or change the order, depending on the changes these websites make to stave the order.
During Tuesday’s parliamentary session, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Law and Education Indranee Rajah said: “The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector.” She added that the music industry has seen declines in sales of CDs but has not been rewarded by a “commensurate rise” in digital sales.
Plans to introduce the new laws were mooted last October when Rajah said her ministry was in discussions with other government agencies to assess the use of “site blocking”, as a way to make copyright infringing material less accessible online and curb content piracy in Singapore. She said then that other measures were also necessary such as making legitimate content more affordable and public education.
The Singapore government believes blocking offending websites is necessary to restrict access to pirated content. Rajah last year cited how traffic to Pirate Bay dipped by 69 percent within a year after five European nations restricted access to the website.
Pirate Bay is is popular among consumers who download copyright infringing content including music, films, and e-books. Italy last year ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the website alongside four other file-sharing sites, although some these remained accessible through proxy servers.
No doubt some Singapore consumers will take to VPN services and tools to circumvent any potential site restrictions.
The amended Copyright Act will also provide folks with reading disabilities better access to copyrighted material, as it has widened the category of individuals and institutions that can create copies of such material in more suitable formats. Institutions also can export and distribute such copies globally.
Incidentally, the bill reportedly almost didn’t get passed in parliament due to a lack of the minimum votes. Singapore’s constitution mandates that at least one quarter of elected MPs must be present in the House for bills to be voted on and passed. Singapore has 87 elected MPs.
Amendments for the Copyright Act were due to be heard and passed in parliament on Monday, but had to be rescheduled to Tuesday due to the lack of attending MPs.
Singapore bill to block sites like Pirate Bay