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53 piracy websites blocked in battle to curb copyright breach

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Fifty-three piracy websites, including The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Solarmovie.sc have been blocked in Singapore following the most sweeping action taken by copyright holders here in more than a decade.

Last month, the Singapore High Court ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) Singtel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest to block these 53 sites, which were found to be "flagrantly infringing" intellectual property.

This followed a successful application by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) earlier this year to block them under Singapore's amended Copyright Act. "In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows," an MPAA spokesman told The Straits Times.

MPAA's six member studios are Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures Industries, Disney Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal City Studios Production and Warner Bros Entertainment.

The 53 piracy sites, comprising 154 unique Web addresses, carry the latest box office hits such as American superhero films Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, among a host of other movies and TV shows.

"This action by rights owners is necessary to protect the creative industry, enabling creators to create and keep their jobs, protect their works, and ensure the continued provision of high-quality content to audiences," the MPAA spokesman added.

In 2016, Solarmovie.ph was the first piracy website to be blocked under the amended Copyright Act after the MPAA filed its first salvo in the Republic in its war against piracy.

Singapore's amended Copyright Act, which took effect in December 2014, lets content owners seek a High Court order to get ISPs to block piracy websites. Before the revised law, they could not compel ISPs to block pirated content.

All the ISPs said they have complied with the court order to block the websites by last Friday.

According to statistics from HypeStat.com, The Pirate Bay alone attracts 2.4 million uni-que visitors a day globally, with about 29,000 daily visitors from Singapore.

Mr Benjamin Ang, president of the Singapore chapter of the Internet Society, a non-profit organisation, said that site blocking has limited effectiveness as the content in question can easily move to another site.

"But site blocking can prevent casual users from accessing the content for a while, and more importantly, it sends a signal to users that this content is illegal," he said.

Tech lawyer Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay said he was surprised the action against The Pirate Bay came four years after the law was amended.

"Surely the Hollywood studios' losses from those sites would mount over time," he said.

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