E-commerce sites wait for court decision on Android TV boxes

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E-commerce platforms react to case on access to copyrighted content

One e-commerce platform is already taking action while others are playing a waiting game after two retailers were hauled to court last week by pay-TV operators Singtel and StarHub, entertainment giant Fox Networks Group and football's Premier League for selling Android TV boxes.

The landmark case will determine the legality of the TV box, which runs on the Android smartphone operating system and usually comes pre-loaded with apps that can access copyrighted content.

The New Paper understands that Lazada Singapore is in the process of removing from its item listings Android TV boxes which may infringe on intellectual property rights.

Its chief executive officer Alexis Lanternier said: "Lazada Singapore does not stand for items that do not comply with Singapore's legal guidelines."

TNP understands that Qoo10, another e-commerce platform, will wait for the conclusion of the court case before taking any action.

Its compliance team manager said: "We are keeping an eye out for sellers who advertise the illegal functions of these boxes."

Carousell is also keeping tabs on the case, with a spokesman saying the outcome will determine its policy.

Currently, some listings of the TV boxes on e-commerce platforms advertise with images of English Premier League matches, suggesting access to copyrighted content, because the games are available here only via pay-TV operators.

Mr Liew Yik Wee, director at Rev Law LLC, said: "On the assumption that the boxes are adjudged to be illegal, there is certainly potential liability on the part of e-commerce platforms that sell or import TV boxes, which permit the unauthorised streaming of content."

He added that if an e-commerce platform profits from the sale of illegal products via commission, that would be an "important and relevant consideration" in determining whether the platform was "selling or trading the item".

But assistant professor Althaf Marsoof for business law at Nanyang Business School thinks otherwise.

"Sellers could be seen as authorising an illegal act of accessing copyrighted content by providing consumers with the TV boxes to do so, but e-commerce platforms are one degree removed from that, so I think there will be difficulty finding them liable," he said.

He explained that the mere receipt of a commission may not be enough to justify liability for e-commerce sites and added that it would be difficult to establish that an online platform had control over the TV boxes.