Singapore Gets Serious With Online Music Piracy, even for non-profit

In a new development the Courts in Singapore have for the first time imposed a custodial sentence on individuals for distributing music online in breach of the Copyright Act.

Under the Singapore Copyright Act there is a separate section dealing with non-profit making offences, which carry a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment or fines up to SGD 100,000 per song. However until now no one has been sentenced on the non-profit making offence and it was initially expected that they would be given probation or a light fine.

However the two individuals who had distributed over 600 songs for one of them and almost 300 songs for the other were jailed for four months and three months respectively. The two of them who did not know each other both distributed songs from a chat site known as “MP3piracy” which was operated by one of them.

One of the individuals knew his actions were wrong but did not think it was such a serious offence as he did not do it for profit but to make friends on the Internet, whereas the other said he did not know that his activities were illegal. They were however both remorseful and promised not to commit any offences in future, but it transpired that their pleas in mitigation did not avoid a custodial sentence being passed against them.

The arrest of the individuals was precipitated by a tip-off by the Recording Industry Association of Singapore, which represents music companies such as Sony and Warner music. The CEO of the Association said that he hoped that the severity of the sentences would send a clear message that such activity has serious consequences.