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On the fence about getting a new TV box because you’re worried that owning one is illegal? But what if that is not true?
Besides, if they are illegal, why are they so easily available to the public on various online shopping platforms?
Do you already own a TV box? In this post, we’ll share all the answers to these questions and how to check that a TV box is legal.
What Is An Android TV Box?
First, let’s get the definition out of the way:
An Android TV box is a small electronic gadget (that runs on Android software though there are other TV boxes that do not rely on Android – like the XiaoMi MiBox) that you connect to your TV.
If you have internet in your home, a TV box allows you to watch all sorts of broadcasted movies and TV shows. Some Android TV boxes also allow you to access Apps from Google Play Store.
And this is where it gets dodgy:
What The Malaysian Law Says About TV Boxes
Although the Malaysian government initially decided to ban TV boxes altogether:
The Star reported in 2019 that the MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) instead blocked a total of 246 sites that enabled users to stream movies, shows, documentaries and even news unauthorized (i.e. pirated copyright content).
The reason for this is that the sites infringed upon Section 41 of the Copyright Act 1987 (CA 1987).
At the end of 2021 however, the government passed 2 bills – the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2021 and the Patents (Amendment) Bill 2021.
From these changes and additions to the Copyright Act:
Of particular interest, is the new Section 43AA in the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2021 which essentially states that commission or facilitation of copyright infringement is a criminal act that can result in a maximum fine of RM200,000 and/or jail time for a maximum of 20 years.
This section also defines copyright infringement via streaming technology to include both hardware and software (regardless of partial or whole use).
The Risk Of Getting Caught With An Illegal Android TV Box
In Feb 2021, The Star reported than a woman was fined a penalty of RM30,000 for using TV boxes with apps (The app in question was MyTV.apk) that allowed her to stream content from Astro illegally.
The purpose was to keep her customers entertained at her business premises (nature of business not disclosed).
On a separate occasion reported by The Edge Markets (also in Feb 2021), the director of an established company in Shah Alam was found to be guilty for selling TV boxes with software that enabled the illegal streaming of copyrighted content.
Which goes to show that the government is serious about this crime but whether or not they’ll come knocking on the doors of the average homeowner who uses their TV boxes for personal entertainment remains to be seen.
PS: Modifying a TV box (Even a certified one) so that it is “contrary to standards” (e.g., causes frequency interference) is an offence according to MCMC’s Regulation 15. And can lead to a penalty amounting to RM300,000 maximum or a maximum imprisonment period of 3 years. Or both.
How To Check That An Android TV Box Is Legal
1. Check That The TV Box Carries SIRIM & MCMC Labels
In case you’re wondering, having a SIRIM or MCMC label on your TV box does not imply that you can use it for streaming content illegally. This is detailed on the official MCMC website.
These labels only mean that the device meets the MCMC technical standards (Communications and Multimedia (Technical Standards) Regulations 2000) for WiFi and Bluetooth modules.
Note: The absence of these labels could indicate that the devices are counterfeited, cloned, or may cause frequency interference.
2. Confirm That The SIRIM & MCMC Labels On The TV Box Are Authentic
Because there is such a thing as fake SIRIM labels, you can check the authenticity of labels on the Check Your Label app – this is a MCMC-run campaign to increase awareness on the matter.
Be wary of sellers who intentionally (or unknowingly) use misleading language to convey that the SIRIM or MCMC label guarantees that you can use the TV box for streaming copyright material illegally.
Such abuse of the labels can lead to recalls of sold and unsold TV boxes alike. Or the revocation of Android TV box certificates.
3. Avoid Illegal Pre-Installed Apps
Similarly, it’s not unheard of to see a TV box sold together with certain apps that will enable illegal streaming of copyright-protected content.
Videocon is one of them.
4. Do Research On The Seller
Other than looking at the seller rating and reading reviews from their customers:
If you notice that they include a tonne of pre-installed apps that allow you to stream content from Astro, Netfilx, Youtube, etc or even other countries for free, this is a red flag that the apps are likely illegal.
What To Do If You Bought/Have An Illegal Android TV Box
In our opinion, if you run a business that uses TV boxes, don’t take the risk of streaming illegal content with them as you’re more likely to get caught.
For the casual user, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get caught using your TV boxes in ways that are considered criminal by the government.
But whether the risk is worth taking to avoid a monthly Astro (or similar like YouTube and Netflix) subscription, is entirely up to you.
Because if caught using your TV box unlawfully (including possession of the device), you could be charged under Section 239 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. The maximum fine of which is RM100,000 or 2 years’ worth of jail time or both.
We honestly think that if you have a favorite paid media platform that you watch all the time, paying for the monthly subscription is a way of supporting them in the long run!
And if you want to be on the safe side, stop using a TV box altogether if it doesn’t have authentic SIRIM/ MCMC labels (i.e. MCMC-certified).
If you unintentionally bought an uncertified TV box, you can report it to MCMC too.
Notes For Android TV Box Sellers And Suppliers
Piracy is detrimental to the Malaysian economy because it may discourage future creative content from being created.
And as reported by The Edge Markets in May 2021, Astro estimates the industrial loss to be worth more than RM3 billion/ year on account of piracy.
In the business of selling TV boxes?
Here are some things to take into consideration:
- Devices must have genuine SIRIM or MCMC labels to be considered authorized. You can only legally sell these authorized devices. Otherwise, proven offenders risk a maximum fine of RM100,000 or maximum jail time of 6 months or both
- Distribution and sales of TV boxes or other ISDs (Illegal streaming devices) infringes on the Copyright Act 1987 if the devices allow unauthorized access to copyright content
- Just because a device is authentic (with the genuine SIRIM/ MCMC label) does not mean that the content (e.g. apps) on it is. Hence, it’s especially important to check what the pre-installed apps are to avoid any trouble.
- Avoid selling modified TV boxes
- There are essentially 3 laws that sellers and suppliers of TV boxes need to be aware of as well as 2 regulations by MCMC
- Copyright Act 1987
- Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
- Communications and Multimedia (Technical Standards) Regulations 2000
- Regulation 15
- Regulation 16
So is having a TV box in Malaysia legal? Not if it’s MCMC-certified.
But while you might be able to get away with having an Android TV box in your home and using it for illegal streaming, are you willing to take the risks of getting caught?
Ultimately, it’s not up to us to tell you what you should do but this post should give you all the background information you need to make an informed decision.
Disclaimer: BestBuyGet and its employees are not responsible or liable for any consequences you may face related to your procurement, business activities, ownership, or usage of TV boxes in general.