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Providers of set-top boxes and apps that infringe on others’ copyright will now face criminal penalties

by Gary Kuo and Pei-hsu Wu

On 16 April 2019, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed amendments to Articles 87 and 93 of the Copyright Act, which provide that companies that offer set-top boxes or apps that allow consumers to link to websites or download content that infringes on the copyright of others can now face up to two years in prison or a criminal fine of up to NT$500,000 (approx. US$16,200) in lieu of a prison sentence.

In recent years, a number of set-top boxes or apps that have been sold on the market provide users with a convenient channel to access websites that allow them to watch pirated content. By charging users monthly rental fees for or selling set-top boxes outright, providers of such products and services are able to reap big profits, a situation that has seriously affected the development of Taiwan’s film and television industry.

In order to implement broader protection of intellectual property rights in Taiwan, the recent amendments provide that the following three kinds of behavior will constitute copyright infringement:

  1. Launching apps that compile links to websites containing pirated content on Google Play, the Apple Store, or other platforms that allow people to download such apps.
  2. Providing advice on, assistance with, or a way to download and use computer programs that contain pirated content, rather than directly offering such computer programs. For example, a provider sells a set-top box that does not contain the above-mentioned programs, but gives guidance or pointers on how to install them.
  3. Manufacturing, importing or selling equipment that contains the above-mentioned programs.

These amendments specifically target providers of set-top boxes and apps. For infringing websites that such products and services link to, such websites constitute infringement of reproduction rights and public transmission rights, and the punishment for such behavior is already provided in Articles 91 and 92 of the Copyright Act.

In addition, while consumers who buy set-top boxes and apps that link to infringing content are not considered to have broken the law, the provider may be investigated for offering illegal content and the consumer could risk having their product or service disconnected or cut off.

It is hoped that the passing of these amendments will aid in ceasing infringement and promoting the development of the creative industries in Taiwan.

For more information on protecting and enforcing copyright in Taiwan, please contact Gary Kuo at gkuo@winklerpartners.com.

 

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