English: Flag of pirate Edward England Polski:...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Singapore may well be the figurative canary in piracy’s figurative coal mine. It is a mixed metaphor, but in the same way that canaries once offered a look into the near future in coal mines (i.e. they would be killed by deadly gases before the gases affected the miners), Singapore may be offering a glimpse of what’s to come in the world of media piracy.

Singapore today enacted an amendment to its Copyright Act that will make it possible for copyright holders to obtain blocking orders against pirate websites without first issuing takedown notices. The legislation was implemented at least in part to address the prevalence online piracy in Singapore. We have written previously about a study by Sycamore Research suggests that 70% of young people aged 16-24 in Singapore habitually access pirated content, one of the worst rates in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The Singapore Copyright Act significantly streamlines the process of legally addressing piracy online. Whereas once copyright holders had to struggle with requesting and following up on takedown notices, they are now free to apply to the court directly for relief  without first establishing liability on the part of the network service provider.

The widespread availability and speed of broadband connections across Asia show all of us what lies just ahead for online publishers and copyright holders, and it’s not good news. When there are few effective barriers to piracy and the technology available to pirates improves, it’s a recipe for indiscriminate copyright infringement. For example, Popcorn, the so-called “Netflix for pirates,” has not faded into the night. Indeed, it’s been reported that it may soon work well with Google’s Chromecast.

Copyright holders and advocates eagerly await the results of Singapore’s decisive move. Will it be an effective means of blocking copyright infringement or pose just a speed bump on piracy’s superhighway? Either way, the results will be instructive and offer insights into our own struggle with copyright infringement.