Malaysia Copyright


Talks on music rights and royalties have been a prevalent and controversial topic especially between artists and record labels. How can musicians protect their craft and work and be more empowered on the subject? To get a basic understanding on the issue, we speak to Foong Cheng Leong, Co-chair of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Bar Council to explore the framework of intellectual property and understand its role in the music industry.

Produced by: Daryl Ong, Haniff Baharudin
Presented by: Daryl Ong, Haniff Baharudin

Top 5 Steps To Protecting Your Music

By Cheng Leong Foong, Rachel Fung
13 March, 2019

As the Internet continues to transform the landscape of the music industry, its players have to navigate and find their place in it.

While the age of the Internet has brought new and exciting ways for musicians to reach wider audiences for example through music streaming or sharing sites, it has also brought its own set of problems such as online piracy and widespread unlicensed use of music. It is in this environment that any artist needs now more than ever to understand how they can take charge of and better protect their work. This article seeks to share the intellectual property laws that are important for any artist to know and more importantly, the practical steps you can take to protect your music in Malaysia.

1.Protect your copyright
This is the most basic and important area of law for an artist. Copyright exerts your ownership over your creation and it is what gives you the host of exclusive rights you have over your music, such as performance, reproduction and distribution of it. There are two main types of copyright in music. The first is the composition copyright which protects the melody and lyrics of a song and belongs to composers, lyricists and publishers. The second type is the sound recording copyright. This protects the recording itself that has been made of a piece of music and usually belongs to the performers and maker of a recording. Be clear on which copyright you are dealing with and what belongs to you.

An interesting point to note is that copyright in fact comes into existence upon the time of creation of your work without you having done anything further. However, your creation must be in a tangible form such as sheet music, lyrics you have written down or a sound recording. Hence an idea in your head or even a freestyle live performance cannot be copyrighted.

Further, even though copyright exists upon creation, should you be faced with any dispute over the ownership of your work in the future, proving that you have the copyright in the work is another matter. There are a number of simple ways you can be prepared for this.

In Malaysia, the best and preferred method is to simply notify the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) of your copyright. This is a lot simpler than it may first seem and is also a more secure method for if you ever have to prove your copyright before a court of law. All it involves is filling up a form called Form CR-1, making a statutory declaration that you are the owner and/or author of the work and details of the work, and depositing a copy of the work with MyIPO. MyIPO’s website ( is very helpful in this respect as it provides samples of the form and statutory declaration needed and even has an easy to follow flowchart of the process. Application costs are reasonable with fees starting from RM35 for an application.

Another alternative method is called the poor man’s copyright. This involves placing into an envelope a sample of your created work, sealing it, and mailing it to yourself using registered mail. The key is not to open the mail when you receive it and to keep your proof of postage. This mail package then becomes proof that you created a particular work at a particular time.

The modern day version of this would be uploading your music to a website such as Facebook, YouTube or Bandcamp as your uploads would carry date-stamps.

2.Make trade marks work for you
While copyright law involves the protection of creative works, trade marks are more to do with your branding. Trade mark protection refers to the protection of a sign, word or phrase which helps to distinguish your goods from those of another. Trade marks will thus likely be most relevant to music artists in respect of band names or logos and particularly with regards to merchandise. Think the Rolling Stone’s tongue and lip logo. According to a recent poll, this legendary logo is now the most iconic T-shirt design of all time.

When first coming up with a band name, it may be worth checking to see if a possible name you have in mind is already listed or not on the WIPO trade mark database. This is to ensure that you do not pick a name or logo which is identical or similar to that of another music artist and hopefully avoid the possibility of any trade mark infringement troubles in the future.

If you are at the stage of considering to expand into merchandise with a band name or logo printed on it, then you may wish to consider registering your band name or logo as trade marks. Registering logos or names as trade marks however is a more expensive and complicated process than registering copyrights. Hence it is advisable to seek some legal advice in this respect to find out what is the best option for your situation.

3.Become a member of a music licensing society (hello royalties!)
Music licensing societies help to license the use of music and provide royalties to their members when their music is played, performed or broadcasted in any way. In Malaysia, the sole licensing body is now Music Rights Malaysia (MRM), which then distributes the fees and royalties collected to its member bodies such as Music Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP), Recording Performers Malaysia Berhad (RPM) and Public Performance Malaysia (PPM). Thus composers, lyricists and publishers should still sign up for membership with MACP, while recording artists can sign up with RPM. MACP and RPM membership forms can be downloaded from their websites respectively.

4.Spell things out
As with any relationship, communication and setting things out clearly is important. You can think of this step as a “music pre-nup”. Where a piece of work is a group effort, have a talk with your co-authors to establish which part of it they own. An easy example would be in a lyricist and composer duo where the lyricist owns the copyright in the lyrics written and the composer owns the composition. If you are thinking of signing to a recording company, spell out clearly your rights in your music. Thus in the (hopefully unlikely!) event of an Oasis-level breakup, knowing your rights and positions clearly can help prevent future copyright squabbles.

5. Talk to an intellectual property lawyer
Finally, where you still have questions on your intellectual property rights or what is the best option for you, have a chat with a lawyer. Besides advising or assisting you on the steps above, a good lawyer can also help check through any contracts that you may sign with a recording company for example to ensure that your rights are protected.

In the mean time, keep making music and remember to protect it well!


Foong Cheng Leong is an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya and also a registered Malaysian trade mark, industrial designs and patent agent. He is the author of the book, Compendium of Malaysian Intellectual Property Cases. He also writes at

Rachel Fung graduated from King’s College London with a Law LLB, where she first developed an interest in intellectual property law. She is called to the Bar of England and Wales and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. She is currently chambering at the boutique IP firm, Foong Cheng Leong & Co.

First published on Music Press Asia on 8 March 2019.


This article was published by Sin Chew in 2009. I didn’t realise that there is a digital copy of the article on its website. It was originally written in English but translated by Sin Chew into Chinese. I am reproducing it here for the benefit of my Chinese readers. Sadly, I am unable to read or write Chinese.


大馬是從1962年開始,由當年的Pejabat Cap Dagangan dan Jamin hak(商標與版權辦事處)管理知識產權。後來,有關辦事處於1983年在貿易與工業部旗下更名為Pejabat Dagangan dan Paten(商業與專利辦事處)。

1990年10月27日,商標與版權辦事處在國內貿易與消費人事務部旗下,再次更名為Intellectual Property Division(IPD,知識產權組),負責行政與管理大馬的版權法令、商業設計法令、電路集成板設計圖法令,和原產地理標示法令。


能注冊擁有權的知識產權包括了:專利(Patents)、商標(Trade Marks)、工業設計(Industrial Designs)、原產地理標示(Geographical Indications)、版權(Copyright)和電路集成板設計圖(Layout-Design of Integrated Circuits)。

知識產權,牽涉的範圍非常廣闊,也相當復雜。但於Lee Hishammuddin Allen &Gledhill律師樓執業,專門處理知識產權案子的馮正良律師表示,大馬發生最多的是商標爭奪案子,較少涉及版權和專利的案子。



McCurry Restaurant(KL)Sdn Bhd對壘McDonald’s Corporation
麥當勞欲阻止本地一家以快餐店概念賣馬來西亞和印度料理如咖哩魚頭、Briyani飯、椰漿飯、印度煎餅、拉茶的McCurry Restaurant(KL)Sdn Bhd用Mc名字。
有關餐廳提出的理由是:McCurry是Malaysia Chicken Curry的縮略語。麥當勞打到高庭成功取得禁令,禁止McCurry餐廳繼續使用Mc這個字眼。餐廳後來上訴,上訴庭認為高庭的判決不正確,並允許餐廳繼續使用McCurry名字。上訴庭判決的部份根據理由(當然還有很多詳細的理由)包括了:
●McCurry餐廳的招牌,是紅底上寫著白色和灰色Restoran McCurry,並附上一幅雙手豎起拇指的母雞圖,還有Malaysian Chicken Curry的字眼。這家餐廳很清楚地表現了它的業務性質,而且非常明顯地與麥當勞有所不同。

Meidi-ya Ltd&Anor對壘Meidi(M)Sdn Bhd

McLaren International Ltd對壘Lim Yat Meen
這起案子,著名的F1賽車隊McLaren International Ltd申請要求撤銷Lim Yat Meen注冊的McLaren名字。此項注冊是在“衣服類物品,包括靴、鞋子和涼鞋”的第25級(Class25)項目下注冊。賽車隊提出的數項理由中包括了:
(二)Lim Yat Meen不是有關商標的擁有者。
Lim Yat Meen表示他自1992年開始,就使用McLaren這個名字了生產鞋子,而且他並不知道有個叫McLaren的F1賽車隊,而當年,McLaren International Ltd也沒有在大馬設立任何公司。
McLaren International Ltd在高庭失敗了,就到上訴庭去上訴。上訴庭駁回了有關上訴,並認為既然McLaren International Ltd在Lim Yat Meen注冊這名字前,並無在大馬使用有關名字,因此Lim Yat Meen有權處理他注冊的有關名字。
上訴庭認為,Lim Yat Meen根本不必做些不實際的行動,如到全世界去搜查或詢問有關商標名字的擁有者是否要來大馬注冊。一名奉公守法的業主,不必因為某些外國公司提出無理的商標要求,就回避或停止業務。

Microsoft Corporation對壘Yong Wai Hong

IEV International Pty Limited對壘Sadacharamani a/l Govindasamy

答:1987年版權法令(Copyright Act 1987)。
問:私人及自用(private and domestic use)是甚麼意思?





Protecting your Intellectual Property Rights in Malaysia

This article was published in the December 2012 issue of The Bridge, a quarterly magazine published by the Malaysia Canada Business Council.

In this article, Mr. Foong Cheng Leong briefly sets out the intellectual property rights protected in Malaysia.

Foong Cheng Leong is an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya and also a registered Malaysian trade mark, industrial designs and patent agent. He is also the co-Chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Information Technology Committee and a member of the Malaysian Bar Council Intellectual Property Committee.

The recognition of intellectual property rights in Malaysia started as early as the 1800s during the Straits Settlement days. As the years go by, laws to protect intellectual property rights were expanded. Malaysian intellectual property laws are fairly similar with the laws of other Commonwealth countries and more or less in accordance with international practice.

Trade Mark

A trade mark is an important asset for all businesses. It consists of a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral or any combination thereof. It provides their owners with the legal right to prevent others from using an identical or confusingly similar mark.

In Malaysia, the laws that govern trade mark rights can be found under the Trade Marks Act 1976 and Trade Marks Regulations 1997. Trade mark proprietors can choose to protect their marks through the process of registration. This gives the registered proprietors exclusive right over the trade marks thus allowing them to take legal action against anyone who infringes their rights.

The trade mark registration process is administered by the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (also known as MyIPO. Website at ). Prior to filing an application, an applicant is advised to conduct a search at the Trade Mark Register to determine whether there are any identical or similar trade marks that were filed. Such search would be useful to the applicant to determine whether to use or file their trade mark in Malaysia.

Further, when deciding whether to register a mark in Malaysia, one must ensure that the mark is distinctive. A distinctive mark means a mark that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of the proprietor from other traders.

The registration process in Malaysia normally takes about 1 to 2 years. Upon registration, the proprietor will be issued a Certificate of Registration valid for ten (10) years and it is renewable every ten (10) years.


Copyright protects various type of works such as literacy works which covers novel, lyrics, articles, computer program and so on; dramatic works such as dance choreography; artistic works such as paintings, photographs or any logos, drawings; musical works; recordings; broadcasts and finally, layouts. However, it does not cover procedures, methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such. The law regarding copyright protection in Malaysia can be found under the Copyright Act 1987.

Effective from 1 June 2012, it is possible to make a notification of copyright under the Copyright Act 1987 and Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012 with MyIPO. A notification of copyright can be made by the author of a work, the owner of the copyright in a work, an assignee of the copyright or a licensee of an interest in the copyright.

The notification of copyright will be prima facie evidence of copyright and is useful when dealing with copyright infringement proceedings.

Industrial Designs

Industrial designs right is an intangible right to the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by any industrial process or means, being features which in the finished article appeal to and are judged by the eye. Industrial designs law is governed by the Industrial Designs Act 1996 and Industrial Designs Regulations 1999 in Malaysia.

However, industrial design does not include the method of construction of the device or features of shape or configuration of an article which are (1) dictated solely by the function which the article has to perform, or (2) dependent upon the appearance of another article of which the article is intended by the designer to form an integral part.

An applicant may file an application to protect their rights with MyIPO. It must be highlighted that the applicant must file their industrial design first before they could disclose the same e.g by way of sale to the public failing which the design will not be considered as new.

A registered industrial design is given an initial protection period of 5 years from the date of filing and is renewable for a further two consecutive terms of 5 years each.


Patents are grants given to owners by the government which give the owner an exclusive right over the invention that they have created. Invention can cover product or processes. The protection also gives the owner the exclusive right to stop others from manufacturing, using and/or selling the owner’s invention in Malaysia without the owner’s consent or permission.

For the invention to be patentable, it needs to be new, involves inventive steps and industrially applicable. A “minor invention” can also be as an utility innovation granted provided that it is new and industrially applicable.

A patent and utility innovation can be protected by filing an application with MyIPO. A patent is protected twenty (20) years from the date of filing and a utility innovation is protected with an initial period of ten (10) years and is renewable for a two consecutive terms of five (5) years each.

Malaysia has acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty thus the PCT international application can be filed at MyIPO where MyIPO is acting as the Receiving Office for the international filing of PCT application.

Geographic Indications

A geographical indication helps to indicate the geographical origin of certain goods and possess unique qualities or characteristics that essentially represent the good’s place of origin. Basically, it points to the place where the goods or the characteristics of the goods are originated from. In Malaysia, “Sabah Tea’, ‘Tenom Coffee” and “Borneo Virgin Coconut Oil’ are registered geographical indication.

Only producers carrying on their activity in the geographical area specified in the Register shall have the right to use a registered geographical indication in the course of trade. The right of use be in respect of the products specified in the Register in accordance to the qualify, reputation or characteristic specified in the Register.

The current law in Malaysia that governs the protection of geographical indications can be found under Geographical Indications Regulations 2001.

Applicant can register geographic indications with the MyIPO. However, if the geographic indications are not found in Malaysia, then an agent shall be appointed in Malaysia. A registered geographical indication is given ten (10) years of protection from the date of filling and is renewable for every ten (10) years.

Confidential Information

Confidential information in this context usually means any information that is kept private and is not disclosed to the public. For examples, any new product design, trade secrets, software, business information, marketing strategy and so on.

There is no formal registration process for confidential information in Malaysia. It is possible to sue parties for breach of confidence.


All businesses that wish to invest or trade in Malaysia should consider registered their rights in Malaysia. As Intellectual Property rights are generally territorial, one should take all steps to secure their rights before investing or trading. For example, if a foreign entity discovers that a local company is trading in the same trade mark as the former and earlier than the former in Malaysia, the former should consider using another trade mark or purchase the said trade mark from the latter provided that there is no element of misappropriation.

The author would like to acknowledge Lim Chia Ann for her assistance in preparing this article.

Symphony Light & Sounds Services Sdn Bhd & Anor v Irwan Shah Bin Abdullah @ D.J Dave & Ors

Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No.: S-22-1010-2007

The Plaintiffs initiated an action against Defendants for allegedly misappropriating their copyright by way of fraud and deception. The subject matters in dispute are proposals entitled “Malaysia’s 50 years an illuminating Journey”. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants had secretly sent the subject matter to the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

The Plaintiff claimed that their concept of “large format lightings, projections and special effects” for the purpose of outdoor audio visual performance is artistic works pursuant to the Malaysian Copyright Act 1987.

The High Court held that Plaintiffs failed to show evidence that such concept is their creation and it is original.

Case dismissed with costs to be taxed.

Download: [Judgement]

Registration of Copyright in Malaysia

The new Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012 provides for the voluntary notification of copyright. S. 26A of the Act states that a notification of copyright in any work may be made to the Controller by or on behalf of the author of the work, the owner of the copyright in the work, an assignee of the copyright, or a person to whom an interest in the copyright has been granted by licensee.

A notification of copyright shall contain the following particulars:

(a) the name, address and nationality of the owner of the copyright;
(b) a statutory declaration that the applicant is the author of the work, or the owner of the copyright in the work, or an assignee of the copyright, or a person to whom an interest in the copyright has been granted by licence;
(c) the category of the work;
(d) the title of the work;
(e) the name of the author and, if the author is dead, the date of the author’s death, if known;
(f) in the case of a published work, the date and place of the first publication; and
(g) any other information as the Minister may determine.

The Act changed the requirements of a statutory declaration for prima facie evidence of copyright. The new s. 42 provides that an affidavit, certified extracts of the Register of Copyright or statutory declaration made before any person having authority to administer oath by or on behalf of any person claiming to be –

(a) the owner of the copyright in any works eligible for copyright under this Act stating that-
(i) at the time specified therein copyright subsisted in such work;
(ii) he or the person named therein is the owner of the copyright; and
(iii) a copy of the work annexed thereto is the true copy thereof; or

(b) the performer in a live performance eligible for performers’ right under this Act stating that –

(i) at the time specified therein performers’ right subsisted in such live performance;
(ii) he or the person named therein is the performer; and
(iii) a copy of the document annexed thereto is the document which proves that he or the person named therein performed in the live performance,

shall be admissible in evidence in any proceedings under the Act and shall be prima facie evidence of the facts contained therein.

The Act was enforced on 1 March 2012 but the registration of copyright regime is not in place yet.

We spoke to the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia and we have been informed that the registration regime will be in place in June this year.

[Postscript: The Malaysian Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012 which provides for the forms, fees and procedures for voluntarily notification of copyright is now in effect from 1 June 2012]

Internet Service Provider Liability Act: Do we need one?

An analysis of the potential repercussions of the proposed Internet Service Provider Liability Act.

Recently, The Star reported that the Malaysian Parliament will be tabling the ISP Liability Act (”Act”). According to The Star, the Act makes internet service providers (ISPs) responsible for curbing online piracy. The ISP will be fined if they don’t take action against illegal downloaders.

The ISP will send two warning letters to illegal downloaders. Should the downloaders persist, their internet access will be suspended or even terminated.

It is unclear at this juncture on how far-reaching the Act would be. Will it cover all methods of downloading copyrighted materials, such as music and movies, or only through P2P file sharing software? If a user streams videos or music through a website, would they be caught under this Act? Technically in such case, there is a download of copyrighted materials into a user’s computer.

It is also unclear at this juncture on how the Act would require ISPs to monitor their users’ activities. Are they compelled to keep track of all their users’ internet activities? Or would there be a need for active participation of intellectual property rights (IPR) holders to tell the ISPs that certain IP addresses are infringing their rights, so that the ISPs can reveal the users’ details?

How it works

Making ISPs responsible for their users’ actions is not something common. Jurisdictions such as United States of America and United Kingdom have laws in place to compel ISPs to take action their users.

In some jurisdictions, IPR holders would engage a third party to monitor the internet to see whether anyone is sharing copyrighted files online. If they detect someone, they will obtain the IP address, and thereafter pass it to the relevant ISPs for them to take action against their user. If the user persists notwithstanding that warning letters have been issued, the ISPs may suspend or terminate the user’s internet access.

This is also commonly known as graduated response, or in another words the “three strikes rule”.


It is argued that such a law would curb online piracy. Thousands of people are dependant on the music and movie industries, and online piracy is affecting these industries severely. I do not deny that online piracy has affected these industry, but the objective of this article is to show that the repercussions of such a law are severe to internet users.

What has happened in jurisdictions containing such a law is a good indication on where the implementation of such a law will take us.

In many cases, IPR holders take additional steps against alleged online infringers. IPR holders would normally request for the identity of the internet user (normally after obtaining a Court order) from the ISPs. Some ISPs are ready to divulge such information, whereas some ISPs put up a fight. Once the identity of the user is revealed, the IPR would initiate action against the user and such active enforcement has caused terrible impact on users.

In the United Kingdom, it was reported that IPR holders will send a letter to illegal file sharers demanding payments of between GBP500 and GBP700, failing which the file sharer will be brought to Court. In the United States, a lady decided to fight it out with the recording industry instead of settling out of Court after being accused of encouraging the illegal sharing of songs. She lost the case, and was fined US$220,000. It is a classic case of David against Goliath.

Such a law will also affect internet users who do not know that their internet connection has been piggy-backed by third parties. There are many cases where users do not know that someone has used their internet connection — especially those with unsecured Wi-fi connection — and subsequently receive a demand letter for an offence they did not commit. This happened to a 78 year old man in the United Kingdom, who received a demand letter from a lawyer accusing him of downloading pornography. The 78 year old man didn’t even know what file-sharing was!

At this juncture, we do not know whether the Act would provide for a defence of innocent infringement. But the fact that one can receive a demand letter from lawyers for something that one has not done is quite frightening.

Children are now exposed to the internet at very young age. They may not know that their act of sharing and downloading music or videos will cause serious repercussions to them. A child would obviously choose to download the latest single of Justin Bieber from the internet instead of begging and pleading with his or her parents to buy it. One would argue that we ought to teach our children against online piracy. But all parents know that not all of their advice is always heeded.

In Singapore, it was reported that Odex Pte Ltd, a distributor of Japanese anime in Singapore, had issued demand letters to children as young as 9 years old accusing them of illegal downloads. Further, in the United States, 16 year old Whitney Harper was sued by the recording industry after she was found sharing music via a P2P file sharing program. She claimed that she didn’t know the program she used was taking songs from the internet illegally. Notwithstanding that, judgement was entered against her.

The enactment of the Act would also be another deterioration of our (almost non-existence) privacy rights. Malaysian laws do not recognize invasion of privacy rights as an actionable wrongdoing (see Ultra Dimenson Sdn Bhd v. Kook Wei Kuan [2004] 5 CLJ 285; Dr Bernadine Malini Martin v MPH Magazine Sdn Bhd & Ors and Another Appeal [2010] 7 CLJ 525; and Lew Cher Pow @ Lew Cha Paw & 11 yang lain lwn. Pua Yong Yong & Satu Lagi [2009] 1 LNS 1256) except in very limited circumstances (Maslinda Ishak v. Mohd Tahir Osman & Ors [2009] 6 CLJ 655).

ISPs are the “guardians” of our rights of privacy. They hold the key to our identity in the internet. Our identity, surfing habits and internet activities are our personal data and ISPs ought to give priority of such data over commercial interest of others.

By giving access to our personal data to third parties, our privacy is at risk, and such a risk is real. Recently, ACS:Law, a law firm specialising in taking action against file sharers in the United Kingdom, had accidentally divulged information of thousand of broadband users who were accused of illegal file sharing. The information that was leaked were unencrypted Excel spreadsheets, listing the names and addresses of people that ACS:Law had accused of illegally sharing media. One contained details of customers whom they had accused of illegally sharing pornography!

In light of the ACS: Law case, some ISPs in the UK resist efforts to divulge customer details to IPR holders. I urge the same is followed by our local ISPs in order to protect internet users’ privacy.

It should be remembered that customer data is protected under the upcoming Personal Data Protection Act 2010, which provides for a fine or imprisonment or to both in the event of a breach.

Lawyers appointed to act for IPR holders should also be vigilant when dealing with internet users. Solicitors who had been representing IPR holders were subject to public humiliation and harassment by internet users.

A partner of ACS: Law, one of the main targets.

Assuming that the Act would push through in any event, I urge our local ISPs to only take action or to provide customer information to IPR holders if they are satisfied that –

1. there is strong evidence to show infringing act has been committed by user, if possible only provide information if infringement is on a large or commercial scale or for commercial gain;
2. the requester’s storage system is secure, and they have given an undertaking that information will be kept securely e.g. encrypted;
3. the requester will only use that information for the purpose of pursuing legal action only and not to published it anywhere else; and
4. the requester is compelled to give access to the information obtained from ISPs to customers to ensure that a fair case can be fought.


I am not a file sharing advocate, and I do not condone internet piracy. I am only seeking to raise awareness of the repercussions of such a law. I hope what I have mentioned above is considered by the law and policy makers.

I would like to express my gratitude to David Wang of for raising this issue on his blog.

Quick, throw your CDs away! There’s a roadblock!

First published on LoyarBurok on 2 November 2010

For the past few months, an email has been circulating alleging that police and the enforcement division of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry’s (now the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives And Consumerism) have started operations to search and fine anyone who keeps pirated discs inside their cars. The email alleges that these operations were carried out through roadblocks at main roads and expressways, and that persons caught in possession of pirated discs were fined RM400 per disc.

In fact, these stories have been circulating for some time now. A report in the Sun newspaper in April 2009 stated that the police set out roadblocks to nab anyone with pirated discs. However, the same report stated that the Ministry denied having such roadblocks being set up.

Whether or not such roadblocks have been set up, it leaves us with the question: Do the police or the Ministry have the power to search our vehicles for pirated discs?

Section 24 of the Police Act 1967 allows any police officer to stop and search without warrant any vehicle which he has reasonable grounds for suspecting is being used in the commission of any offence against any law in force. The Ministry has also authority to enter and search a vehicle without warrant provided that he has reasonable grounds for believing that delay in obtaining a search warrant would lead to the destruction of evidence.

Under section 41 of the Copyright Act 1987, it is an offence to possess, other than for private and domestic use, any infringing goods. Any person who has in his possession, custody or control three or more infringing copies of a work or recording in the same form is presumed to be in possession of such copies otherwise than for private or domestic use. This basically means that possession of a pirated disc for private and domestic use is allowed provided that the pirated disc do not exceed three or more copies of the same form.

The offence would attract a fine not less than RM2,000 and not more than RM20,000 for each infringing copy or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.

Can the police or the Ministry stop and search your vehicle?

In short, for now, if the police or Ministry have reasonable grounds to think that you are distributing pirated goods, (e.g. if you’re suspected to be a pirated VCD/DVD seller), they can stop and search your vehicle. Otherwise, they have no authority to stop and search your vehicle for pirated discs.

This situation may soon change.

The Government recently announced plans to amend the Copyright Act 1987 to make it an offence to keep pirated goods, similar to the offence of possessing stolen goods. Although the Government has not announced the details of the amendment, such news is worrying. This basically means that anyone in possession of pirated goods is committing an offence. Hence, any police, with reasonable grounds that there are pirated goods in a vehicle, may stop and search the vehicle.

What if the driver had purchased genuine songs from the internet and had it copied into a CD? The driver would have to prove and explain that he had genuinely purchased the song.

If I had downloaded software, music or movies into my computer from the Internet, does the police or Ministry has the authority to enter my house and search my computer? Based on the proposed amendment, the police or Ministry has the authority to do so.

Guidelines to allow the authorities to stop and search a vehicle for pirated goods should be clearly spelled out and made available to the public. The public should be given the right to use or copy copyrighted materials for their private use. Certain levies or exemptions should be given to the public if they are in possession of pirated goods unintentionally.

An outright ban of unauthorised possession copyrighted materials will create fear and chaos to the country and society.

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