HomeNavigating the Legal Landscape of Live Streaming in Singapore

Navigating the Legal Landscape of Live Streaming in Singapore

Live streaming Singapore seems to have taken the world by storm. According to the State of Online Gaming 2018 report conducted by Limelight Networks, live streaming Singapore has reached a global audience with 46% of gamers currently live streaming gaming content and 77% of them watching other people play online. With the arrival of live game streaming platforms like Twitch, which has over 15 million daily active viewers, to even media services like YouTube and Facebook, more and more Singaporeans are starting to get in on the action. However, one thing that many aspiring live streamers don’t know is that live streaming gameplay or any kind of footage from TV, movies, etc. is very much a legally grey area in Singapore.

Legal Considerations for Live Streaming in Singapore

From the aspect of live streaming, whatsoever it may be gaming, discussions, or perhaps a slideshow, it is definitely possible that there may be a certain part of something or a work which is copyrighted. For example, in the case of games, let it be through music, sound effects, appearance of characters, etc. It’s a usual case that a streamer would take informal means to record/’tape’ gameplay, thus liability for copyright infringement may arise. This isn’t limited to gamers themselves, but average persons may inadvertently do it. However, this will only be applicable if the work is communicated to a public audience and/or played in any place, whether for profit or not. Measures against this can only be preventive, not doing a certain act will, without a doubt, be the safest. it’s been said that ‘The best way to protect oneself from an allegation of copyright infringement is not to copy the copyright work in the first place’. However, a recent case in has shown that copyright owners tend to be aggressive in the defense of their rights and that other methods may have to be taken to avoid an allegation of infringement. Although it has many ways, it’ll be best if the means do not lead to a case.

For copyright, the right may be any expressions in a tangible form; ideas per se are not copyrightable. Any piece of music, art, literature, sound recording, films, broadcasts, and even live performances may be copyrighted. Copyright protection is automatic and begins when the work is recorded or written down. The creator may not have to register it, although there is an option to do so in IPOS for a fee. Required qualifications for copyright are that the work should be original and that the creator is a qualifying person. Hopefully, with qualification, there will no more be a case of copyright infringement where another person uses the work without the creator’s permission. This also includes pirating or unauthorized copying of the work. Offenders can be imposed with criminal liabilities or even imprisonment, who wouldn’t want to stray away from this. With the high susceptibility of live stream contents being copied, the upgrade of technology and changing the dynamics of the internet, it falls under Section 1363 of the Copyright Act: communication of copyrighted work.

The rights include patents, copyright, trademarks, geographical indications, registered designs, plant varieties protection, layout-designs of integrated circuits, and trade secrets.

In Singapore, for people who are interested in live streaming, either to convey lifestyle, discussions, gaming, or more, they need to take into account the legal factors to avoid facing any legal predicaments. With the rise of the internet and live streaming lately, the content’s viewers are increasing. This itself is an interest to those who own the content/creations of the intellectual property and the law, as they may always have the fear of it being misused and the creator losing income through it. Examples of ‘content’ are songs that have been composed, recordings, games that have been developed, or even artistic works. These creations have intellectual rights protected under the law in Singapore through the Intellectual Property Rights.

Intellectual Property Rights

The authors have identified the potential issues that could arise with live streaming of video games. They mention that the internet has caused major copyright issues for software developers, and the rise of the video game streaming industry has brought up the issue of whether the copyright holders have the right to stop people from broadcasting what is happening in a video game. This issue has not been brought to court and resolved in Singapore; however, considering that there is a substantial amount of money involved in the video game streaming industry, it may become a major issue in the coming years.

France Taillefer and Mark Lim discuss the legal considerations for live video streaming in Singapore. They also point out the law for intellectual property. According to Taillefer and Lim, “the act of live streaming itself does not violate copyright as there is no copying involved”. Viewers watching streamed content also do not breach copyright law as they are observing the material and not making a reproduction. The copyright violation occurs when the streamer is broadcasting content that is copyrighted – for example, live television programs, films, or music videos. This is important for live streamers to understand as it affects what content they can and cannot stream. If streamers breach any copyright laws, they are subject to civil and criminal liabilities. As there are many active streamers who have no knowledge of the potential liabilities, it would be beneficial for government authorities to hold seminars or workshops to educate the masses and prevent unintentional violations. As Singapore has many laws implemented to protect intellectual property, there are numerous cases of civil liabilities each year, in which the penalties can be quite severe.

Content Regulation

On a similar note, the content standards under the Internet Code of Practice are reflected in the content standards for the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification and Broadcasting (Class Licence) Regulations. The regulations require broadcasters to ensure that all broadcast content is not against public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is detrimental to the well-being of young persons. Failure to comply may result in a range of actions including the suspension of license, fines, and even imprisonment.

ICOP is a self-regulatory set of guidelines that the MDA expects Internet content providers to adhere to. It seeks to ensure that content providers are responsible and sensitive to the needs of society and do not create, promote, or transmit objectionable content. Failure to comply with these set of guidelines will be met with a request to remove the objectionable content, and in more serious cases, the content provider will be asked to close down the website. Live streamers fall under this broad definition of a content provider and should be aware that any streamed content that is publicly accessible would be considered as providing Internet content.

Live streamers produce a wide range of content – from gameplay to real-life video logs. Both content and content platforms (e.g. games, virtual worlds) are subject to the same content standards applied by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) on all other forms of media. This means that live streamers are expected to abide by a range of content standards broadly defined under the Internet Code of Practice (ICOP), Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, and Broadcasting (Class Licence) Regulations.

Privacy and Data Protection

In the event of a streamer being considered an organisation, they would be subject to the obligations under the PDPA and can be held accountable should they fail to comply with its provisions.

Live streams typically have a chat function, and in using the chat, it is likely that names, ages, locations, and various other personal details will be disclosed by users to the streamer or to another viewer. This data is considered as personal data, and the streamer would be collecting it as soon as it is disclosed in the chat.

As of now, there is no legal precedent specifically addressing the issue of whether a streamer is a consumer or organisation under the PDPA, as it is not obvious that a streamer would be collecting personal data in the first place. However, it would be safe to assume that a streamer is, in fact, an organisation, taking into consideration that the PDPA is interpreted to cover both personal data collected by an individual or an organisation.

Personal data in Singapore is protected under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA), which imposes various obligations on organisations and businesses, including rules governing the collection, use, disclosure, and care of personal data. Failure to adhere to the PDPA can result in severe consequences, including financial penalties and reputational damage caused by negative publicity regarding a breach of an individual’s privacy.

Licensing and Permits for Live Streaming in Singapore

The downside to the class license scheme is that it is not tailored for specific online activities, and live streaming can fall under a wide variety of services. The eligibility criteria would mean that some live streamers would not be eligible for a class license and would have to go through the process of applying for an individual license. Nonetheless, the existence of a class license means that there are alternatives to the standard licensing requirements, and this is thus an overall benefit to content providers.

Live streamers may be heartened to know that there is a class license scheme under the Broadcasting Act, which offers a streamlined approach to getting a license. This is a no-fee license that is offered to eligible services. Such services should be not-for-profit and should not undermine national interests. Although it is likely that live streamers will have to apply for an individual license, this is nonetheless a positive development in the regulatory landscape for online content. A no-fee license is certainly a lot more attractive than a paid license, and the fact that it is the easier alternative to an individual license means that there is a lesser regulatory burden for low-impact internet broadcasters. An individual license will allow the applicant to be a “broadcasting licensee” as defined in the Act and is necessary if the service is on a commercial basis or if none of the class licenses available are suitable for the service in question. This is a simpler and cheaper alternative to traditional broadcasting licenses and is therefore a more feasible option for many internet broadcasters.

When it comes to live streaming in Singapore, those who engage in the activity are contributors of content and are thus classified as broadcasters. As broadcasters, they will have to adhere to the standards and regulations laid out by the Media Development Authority (MDA), the statutory board which looks into the regulatory aspects of media in Singapore. Broadcasters must act in accordance with the Broadcasting Act, which is enforced by the MDA. Section 8 of the Broadcasting Act states that no person shall provide a broadcasting service in Singapore unless he is licensed to do so under the Act. As broadcasting is defined as the transmission of any programme, whether through a wireless medium or over a network, with the intent to communicate that programme to members of the public in Singapore, broadcast licensing is required for even non-commercial broadcasts and thus applies to all live streaming activity.

Broadcasting Act

The Act also provides that licences may be subject to terms and conditions. In this regard, the MDA has the authority to impose guidelines or standards in relation to any matter affecting public interest or national interest specified in the licence. Such guidelines or standards will be published in the Government Gazette and shall be available to the public. Live streamers will need to be mindful of their obligations under their licence, for breaching the terms and conditions of any licence shall be punishable in like manner as providing a broadcasting service without a licence.

The Act states that no person shall provide a broadcasting service to the public unless there is a licence under this Act authorizing them to do so. This implies that all live streamers intending to provide content that is intended for public reception are required to obtain a licence from the MDA. Failure to do so is an offence under the Act and is liable to a fine not exceeding $200,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both. This is on top of the fact that providing a service without a licence is generally costly due to the potential penalties or the possibility to recall or take down offending content. Obtaining a licence, therefore, is a fundamental requisite for a live streamer to lawfully provide a public broadcasting service in Singapore.

The Act applies to all broadcasting agencies, which are defined in the Act itself as any person who provides any broadcasting service to people in Singapore, and any person who installs, constructs, establishes, or operates any broadcasting apparatus for use in connection with such services. An overseas broadcasting agency which provides services to people in Singapore is also deemed a broadcasting agency in Singapore under the Act. A broadcasting service is defined as a service that is intended for general reception by members of the public. These broad definitions invariably encompass most live streamers.

The Broadcasting Act (Cap. 28) is the primary statute that governs the regulation of the broadcasting industry in Singapore. The Act established the MDA in 2002, thereby replacing the then Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) with enhanced regulation of the free-to-air (FTA) television programming. Subsequently, the MDA (Amendment No. 3) Bill in 2008 was introduced to the Broadcasting Act, and the regulation was further extended to cover Video-On-Demand and internet content.

Class License Scheme

This being said, class licensees are still able to apply for individual licenses if they wish to have more regulatory certainty for specific forms of content or broadcasting activities. An individual license will take precedence over a class license if there are any terms and conditions that are inconsistent with the class license.

Any form of notification to class licensees of particular broadcasting can also be done retrospectively, hence there is no need to apply for another license if a class licensee is informed at any point after engaging in a particular broadcast. Nevertheless, the class licensee will have to cease any notified broadcast if asked to do so by the authority under section 8 of the Act.

Under a class license, a licensee will not have to apply and pay license fees for the broadcasting of content. The authority states that class licensees will be informed of the eligibility to be a class licensee, and that upon notification of any particular broadcasting, it shall be deemed to have been licensed. This means that class licensees are merely expected to ensure that the content and all relevant broadcasting activities comply with the law, and they will not have to worry about obtaining any licenses for their broadcasters or applying for licenses before engaging in any broadcasting activities.

An important point to note here is that the class license scheme does not authorize the broadcasting of all forms of content. For example, political content is subject to an individual license.

As elaborated in the Broadcasting (Class License) Notification 2015, a person can be a class licensee if they are defined as a relevant person: anyone who is an individual ordinarily resident in Singapore or any company or corporation incorporated or registered under any written law in force in Singapore. Consequently, this means that non-Singaporeans would not be able to qualify for a class license, thereby having to obtain an individual license if they are intent on being a content broadcaster in Singapore.

A class license is defined as a license issued to the class of persons, but not to individual members of that class. Therefore, under this scheme, a class license will be issued to content broadcasters as a whole, instead of them having to obtain individual licenses.

Individual Licensing Requirements

A person who will be engaging in live streaming activities as a form of providing news, entertainment or music programming services provided over the internet will require an Individual Licence. This includes persons who will be engaged in live streaming activities via blogs and forums. An Individual Licence authorises the licensee to undertake a specified broadcasting service and will be subject to the individual broadcast programme code. Live streaming comes under the ambit of broadcasting in Singapore, and hence an Individual Licence is required for persons engaging in it to provide scheduled programme services. A person providing scheduled programme services is defined as one who provides a programme service, the form and content of which is controlled by him, and the programme service is provided at such times and in such a manner as to constitute his seeking to address a section of the public or a segment of the public.

Best Practices for Live Streaming in Singapore

Furthermore, live streams can be pre-classified prior to broadcast using the automated or channel-based content recognition system, to facilitate an easier identification of live content. Finally, it would be ideal to set up a point of contact with the MDA who can provide advice on regulatory obligations. This will help the content provider to better understand how the various content standards and guidelines apply to their content.

Since live streaming involves the real-time transmission of information, it is subject to greater scrutiny by the MDA as live content generally cannot be moderated prior to broadcast. Thus, it is recommended that live streamers obtain a class licence in order to import the need for an individual licence before every broadcast. An individual licence will be necessary if the content falls outside the content code, e.g. a religious service. This is to ensure that the content providers are responsible for the content that is being made available to the public. This helps to minimize the risk of regulatory action being taken against them. Depending on the nature of the content, it may be required to put in place access restrictions to prevent minors from accessing R21 content. This can be done by using age checks for registered users.

Compliance with Content Guidelines

Offensive behavior includes denigrating any race or religion, inciting ill-will or hostility between races, and being sympathetic or in support of any such activities. It goes without saying that there is absolutely no flexibility in this area, and any content found to be in breach of this guideline will be subject to the strictest action. Content providers should also be mindful of acting or gestures that are offensive or rude, as this also falls under the same category. A high level of violence is also not permissible, so live streams of games such as first-person shooters, which are categorized as high violence video games, would be considered not permissible content. Last but not least, pornographic or paedophilic content is not permissible.

Unbeknownst to many, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has laid out content standards for video on demand, which encompasses live streaming over the internet. This means that live streaming content has to adhere to these guidelines to be classified as permissible content. Any live stream that does not adhere to these guidelines would be in breach of the IMDA Act. Therefore, it is crucial for content providers to understand their responsibilities and what is considered permissible content.

Consent and Release Forms

The main release/consent form you will be using is the General Media Release Form. This is a form typically used by schools and other educational organizations to receive consent from a parent or guardian before using a minor’s image or audio/visual recordings for publishing and other purposes. Given that minors do not have the legal capacity to sign binding agreements, this form provides written consent from their parents or legal guardians that is also legally binding. This type of form will prove to be very useful when involving minors in your live stream or video in any way, as it can protect you from taking legal action if something goes wrong and the minor’s parent tries to argue that they did not give sufficient consent.

Consent and release forms are probably one of, if not the most, important aspects of protection you can have for both yourself and your live stream. Essentially, a release form is a legally binding agreement between two parties, in which one person agrees not to sue the other. In the field of live streaming, having a participant sign a release form can protect you in the event that they are injured on your property (this also goes hand in hand with the limited premise liability that was mentioned in a previous post by Chris) or even seriously injure themselves when following instructions you have given them. If the participant were to try and take legal action against you with a personal injury claim, the release form could be used as evidence in a court to show that the participant waived his or her right to sue. Make sure that you hang on to release forms for 2-4 years, as this is typically the time frame in which someone can legally try to sue you for personal injury.

Copyright Infringement Prevention

Considering the potential negative impact that DMCA notices may have on streamers, it’s important that preventative measures are taken to avoid them. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done, and there is no absolute way to protect oneself from receiving a DMCA notice. The best method of prevention is simply to avoid using other people’s content that is known to be copyrighted. This includes music, video, and imagery. If a streamer is adamant about using music during his live stream, there are various royalty-free music databases available on the internet. However, it’s important to note that some of these databases store music that is free to play but not free to use in a commercial context, so it’s in the streamer’s best interests to read the music’s licensing agreement.

Twitch is primarily a gaming industry, which means game developers hold a large amount of power in regards to their content security. If a game developer feels that their newly released game is being jeopardized by an influx of buggy or incomplete in-game footage being exposed to the public, they have the ability to issue DMCA notices to live streamers playing that particular game, which is obviously detrimental to the streamer. Because of the potential loss of income for the streamer, the game developer is in a position where they can issue continuous DMCA notices to the streamer’s VOD content to ensure the game footage is removed from the public domain. This is another way DMCA notices can affect live streamers.

Prevention of copyright infringement is a particularly important issue for live streamers. Content is still uploaded and stored by live stream sites on their servers, which leaves it susceptible to DMCA notices. The DMCA notices are very similar to those of YouTube and result in VOD content removal as well as account suspension.

Data Security Measures

This raises the question as to what extent an individual’s identity is able to be established through the video. More often than not, companies may arrange their event managers or hire external film companies to video the events they plan to stream. The event may also include external participants or members of the public. In these cases, various video shots of the individuals involved would be recorded at numerous locations. The more diverse the video shots and the longer the video is.

In terms of live streaming, this would mean any company, organization, or individual which is involved in or utilizes the service to live stream an event is to comply with the Act if they are in possession of personal data. Personal data refers to any news or information about an individual who can be identified from that data; e.g., names, identification numbers, contact information, or location.

Singapore law requires any organization that is in possession of personal data to comply with the PDPA. Under this act, data accountability is more finely allocated throughout the organization; the business owner and heads of departments are responsible and are to act as the data protection officers responsible for personal data protection in their respective areas.

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