Malaysia tweaks copyright law to hit streamers of copyright-infringing content

Those enabling piracy may be guilty until they prove otherwise


Malaysia's House of Representatives has passed an amendment to a 1987 Copyright Act that makes enabling illegal streaming punishable by fine, prison or both.

Those who facilitate copyright infringement face fines of RM200,000 ($2,377) or more, up to 20 years prison, or a combination of both, whether their illicit action be through manufacturing, importing, providing, advertising, or distributing streaming technologies.

By specifying streaming, the amendment updates the previous outdated privacy law that focused on those downloading the content into permanent storage and those who subsequently bootlegged the videos, something that all of a sudden seems very 2008.

The updated act [PDF] safeguards against those who might point the finger and shift blame as it assumes all business associates of the offending party are guilty until proven innocent.

Unless one can prove "the offense was committed without his consent or connivance" and the individual did everything they could to prevent it, affiliated individuals "shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and may be charged severely."

This includes "every director, chief executive officer, chief operating officer, secretary, manager or other similar officer of the body corporate or every other partner in the firm," those assisting management, and more.

While the act eliminates the ability for guilty parties to hide under a corporate structure, it also fails to quantify due diligence and defines the new law in an overtly broad way.

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP), which in recent weeks outwardly appears focused on floods, rising food costs, and taking action on scammers who overcharge tourists for barramundi, took to Facebook to link to local media reports on Act 332.

KPDNHEP minister Dtuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi told Free Malaysia Today: "Act 332 is amended to ensure copyright laws implemented will provide more efficient and effective protection in line with current demands and to fulfil the needs of the business community and stakeholders."

In 2019, Malaysians downloaded over 84 million content files through BitTorrent, according to local media.

By 2019, industry had been cranky over piracy for years, claiming in 2016 to have lost more than RM1.05bn ($240m) to illegal downloads. The RM157m ($37m) allegedly lost in taxes may have been what got the government's attention. ®

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