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Piracy costs the Malaysian entertainment and media industry an estimated RM3 billion annually while at the same time depriving the government of RM500 million in tax revenue. More heart-breaking is that piracy puts thousands of jobs at risk because employers can’t make profits to pay their staff.
Therefore, as of 2022, digital piracy is considered a criminal offence after the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2022 was gazetted on 10th February 2022. Then, on 18th March 2022, the law was enforced by the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, bringing a landmark change to copyright protection in Malaysia.
Commenting on the new bill, Abdul Haris Haji Lakar, Director General, Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) said, “Digital piracy has become increasingly rampant over the years. With the strengthening of the enforcement of copyright laws, particularly in the digital sphere, we hope this will curb digital piracy and raise awareness amongst users to choose the appropriate medium so as to avoid any infringement.”
He continued, “MyIPO will continue to promote the importance of applying for copyright voluntary notification amongst copyright owners in order to protect their works under the Copyright Act 1987. MyIPO also urges IP owners to register their patent, trademark, industrial design and geographical indication to fully protect their IPs and benefit from the exclusive rights provided under the Intellectual Property Legislations.”
This bold legislation places Malaysia as one of the first countries in the region to amend its copyright laws to reflect modern technological advancements.
Zahrin Aris, Honorary Secretary, Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) elaborates, “There is a lot of hard work that takes place when making a film that consumers do not get to see. This involves various professions such as scriptwriters, songwriters, musicians, artists, vendors and all the people who enable the industry to function properly.
Should the work of local film producers go unprotected, it will disrupt the entire ecosystem. As such, the digital-focused upgrade of the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2022 is indeed timely to strengthen the enforcement of copyright laws.”
Now, the big question here is, how will this new legislation affect pirates?
When asked, Kherk Ying Chew, an advocate and solicitor who has practised in the area of intellectual property (IP) law for more than 30 years said, “The impact of the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2022 is far-reaching as the act of distributing and sharing of applications, websites and hyperlinks by individuals through messaging applications or on social media platforms that allow access to pirated content is no longer harmless, as it is a criminal offence.”
The gist of it is that anyone found selling ISDs and associated software applications that allow unauthorised access to copyright content can be:
- fined up to RM200,000,
- be imprisoned for up to 20 years,
- or both
If a company is deemed to be involved in these prohibited activities, the director of the said company can be personally held liable.
Azman Adam, Director of Enforcement, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) said, “Recent reports on piracy indicate that copyright infringement remains a pressing issue. The Copyright (Amendment) Act 2022 is aimed at protecting copyright owners – individuals and businesses alike.
In conjunction with the new amendments, which cover online copyright infringement or digital piracy, it has enhanced the investigation powers given under the Act for the enforcement officers to conduct effective investigation.
We will be taking continuous enforcement and monitoring actions to mitigate infringement in copyright-protected work. We urge businesses, including retailers and other establishments to review their offerings and conduct business ethically.”
Members of the public who have any information on the misconduct in this matter can channel a complaint through the Ministry’s official complaint channels via hotline 1-800-886-800, call 03-8882 6088/6245 at the Enforcement Command Centre, WhatsApp at 019-279 4317 / 019-848 8000, email to [email protected]; or via ezAdu app on Android and iOS.
Representing the local film industry, Professor Dr. Md. Nasir Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer, National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) said “Although only KPDNHEP, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) have the authority against digital piracy, FINAS takes this issue seriously and has given consistent cooperation to eradicate the bane of our film industry.”
FINAS will channel useful information about illegal links of films shared on social media platforms to authorities in order to expedite the investigation.
He added, “Through Act 244, Section 24 (1) emphasises the control of film in custody of a person licensed under FINAS. Therefore, should there be a breach of this term, the person will be subjected to penalty under Section 25 (1) or Act 244 or compounded under Section 26K (1) of the same Act.“
As a nation, it is time for us to adopt the appropriate moral mindset and say NO to piracy. We should also channel our semangat kekitaan to help local content businesses and our fellow Malaysians in the creative industry grow and thrive.
Before the long arm of the law reaches companies and individuals who have been consuming and profiting from digital piracy for far too long, it will be a prudent move for them to turn to authorised platforms to access copyright content.
The authorities have done their part, now we must do ours.