Taiwan amends Copyright Act in set-up-box crackdown

The legality of the set-up-box (STB) is a pending issue in Taiwan. UBOX, which is popular in Taiwan and in other jurisdictions, is a type of STB containing embedded software allowing people to browse media using streaming services, without registration or payment. Additional applications can be installed on UBOX and it can be projected to televisions, computer screens and so on. Unlike cable TV, UBOX users need not pay to view channels from the applications. However, most videos are unauthorised, which is controversial due to the analogous function with cable TV especially after the Legislative Yuan passed an amendment to the Copyright Act on 4 May 2022.

In order to protect copyright owners, the Legislative Yuan had revised the act in 2019 by adding Subparagraph 8 in Paragraph 1 of Article 87. The amendment deems “knowing that public broadcast or transmission of work is copyright infringement, but intend[ing] to allow the public to contact these types of work, and to receive benefit therefrom” into the scope of specification to be an infringement of copyright.

According to the amendment, the following situations also constitute copyright infringement:

  • Offering copyright-infringing IP computer software for public use.
  • Teaching or setting up paths of copyright-infringing computer software to be downloaded for public use, including web placing, seller teaching and so on.
  • Producing, importing or selling computer software equipment that might connect with copyright-infringing work.

After the National Communications Commission inspected STBs, they revoked several certifications of them that contain WiFi and Bluetooth functions, including the UBOX made by Unblock Tech. After certain public figures accidentally posted pictures on Instagram showing that they were using UBOX, the issues of STBs received considerable attention in Taiwan.

As science and technology advances, the number of high technology-related crimes rises. The Executive Yuan proposed an amendment in January 2022, resulting from the preparation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The legislators amended Article 100 of the Copyright Act making a number of offences chargeable without complaint, including circumstances of aggravation of digital piracy, spread and public transmission. After the revision, police have the public power to arrest copyright infringers, in order to protect copyright owners more comprehensively.

In order to avoid police crackdowns, Unblock Tech released a ‘pure version’ of UBOX without an illegal built-in computer program that infringes copyrights. Nevertheless, disputes regarding the legality of UBOX continue, even if UBOX sellers offer guides or assist the public in setting up unauthorised applications when trading this sort of STB. It is foreseeable that Taiwan’s government will not allow any kind of evasion of the new regulations and may act against illegal usage of STBs.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

Unlock unlimited access to all IAM content