VPNs and Copyright: Developments from Singapore

The Intellectual Property of Singapore (IPOS) and the Singaporean Law Ministry issued a consultation document earlier in the month of August. The document proposed certain changes such as: permitting the use of text for data analysis even if the copyright owner could not be identified or contacted for consent and the reviewing of certain technological protection measures in the amended 2014 Copyright Act.

The ministry made the following statement on the matter:

”Technological developments in the past decade have led to immense changes in how copyrighted works are created, distributed, accessed and used. Copyright law must keep pace with modern developments so as to support creativity and innovation. This review seeks to ensure our copyright regime continues to provide an environment that benefits both creators and users.”

The key aspect about this proposed document is the public’s role in providing feedback; the Singaporean government is urging the public to look through the proposed document and review the Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and whether it’s use was sustainable to Singaporean citizens in regards to the technological sphere.

A local Singaporean paper, The Straits Times, quoted IPOS Chief Executive Daren Tang who admitted that VPN had certain complications with the geo-blocks – VPN is not exactly illegal (or legal) within Singaporean borders – but countries outside these borders do not wish to risk committing a crime by affiliating with VPN.

The popular American video-streaming provider, Netflix, stated earlier in January that they would block VPN from their site in order to ”respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”

VPN is a cause for concern for the Intellectual Property community due to: the fact that it is not a legal provider and yet it is fully functioning within Singapore and that it has the capacity (as a result of this legality) to extend its services outside Singaporean borders (on a global sphere).

It is worth noting and applauding that the Singaporean government is attempting to change this and avoid infringement of copyright but change will, unfortunately, come slowly. The ministry has given the document a two month window of change and the possibility of these suggested changes is not concrete as yet.

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