Smart Android TV Box, Videocon, XiaoMi MiBox etc etc. An Android box goes by many names. But one thing’s for sure at the moment, we might not be able to use it in Malaysia very soon.
The government has plans to ban these Smart TV boxes across the country...for good. So, this has raised some pretty heated discussions and the public has voiced out their dissatisfaction as many people still don’t see the reason why there needs to be a ban in the first place.
Perhaps it’s best to briefly explain what an Android Box (also known as Smart TV sometimes) is. Basically, an Android Box is more than just a device you connect to your TV to watch movies. It gives you access to a lot of different apps which you can access on your Play Store. It also enables you to browse the internet, read the news, do some online shopping and even send emails – all on a bigger screen.
If this device has so many uses and seems to bring more benefit than harm, why does the government want to make it illegal...and what happens now if you own one?
What is the reason behind the ban?
To answer that, we have good news, and bad news. The good news is – not all Android boxes are actually illegal.
The bad news is, not all Android boxes have the proper certification that it requires from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). As confusing as this may sound, perhaps an explanation from the MCMC might help.
We called up the MCMC regarding this matter, and the spokesperson told us that it isn’t the Android box itself that is illegal. After all, it’s just an ordinary device that connects to several different apps online. However, if an unauthorised cable connection/international satellite is connected to the Android box, then that it is said to be illegal. In other words, if an Android box is connected to a cable connection that is NOT from a Malaysian landline connection or a recognised WIFI connection, then it goes against the MCMC regulations.
Another thing about illegal Android boxes are, if it doesn’t carry the Standard and Industrial Research Institute (SIRIM)’s approval, it cannot be used in the country. SIRIM has been appointed as the authorised regulatory body to test and approve the use of Android boxes that have been coming into Malaysia. So, if an Android box doesn’t have a SIRIM cert/logo then it is an unauthorised, illegal device.
So, this brings us back to the reason why they are actually illegal. This is simply because the contents of these illegal set-up boxes go against intellectual property laws, particularly the Copyright Act. The MCMC along with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs have been tracking down these illegal Android boxes as most of these provide illegal streaming sites for the public to screen movies, documentaries and news over the set-top box.
So if you currently own an Android box and you’re unsure of it’s legalities...the question now will be, what happens if you are caught with an Android box with an illegal network?
What if your Android box isn’t legal?
So if you can stream over 3000+ channels with your Android box and boast about how you’ve watched all the latest movies just days after it’s premiere in the comfort of your own home, then there is a possibility for you to be liable under Section 239 of the Multimedia and Communications Act 1998.
The Act states:
Therefore, having an Android box that does not meet the standards of the MCMC and if the network connection is being outsourced from a different line, you can be liable under the Act. So, if you do own an Android box but you’re aware that it is connected to illegal network or you do something illegal with it, the authorities can come after you. It’s similar to how when you download pirated movies or illegal softwares on your laptop, which doesn’t make the laptop by itself illegal, but what you do with it is.
With that being established, what if you also sold Android boxes and with the bans imposed now, how would it affect you? Well, the answer is pretty obvious because, if a person who owns the illegal device can potentially face legal action, someone who sells it would most definitely be in a lot of trouble as well.
So yes, selling Android boxes are illegal too
Legally, this is stated in two separate Acts, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Communications and Multimedia (Technical Standards) Regulations 2000.
The law under Regulation 16(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Regulations 2000 explains this prohibition against sellers who illegally distribute the Android boxes in the regulation as:
The Regulation states the prohibition of any device that does not comply with the regulations, and this would apply to Android boxes as well.
The sentencing for selling illegal Android boxes is best explained through a recent news. A couple was arrested for illegally distributing (selling) Android boxes that did not meet the regulations set by the MCMC. They were then charged under Section 239 of the Multimedia and Communications Act for the unlawful use, possession or supply of non-standard equipment/device aka Android boxes, which carries a sentence of less than two years imprisonment, a fine not exceeding RM100,000.00 or both.
Ensure your Android box is certified
The MCMC has blocked up to 246 sites providing these unauthorised screening thus far, and are in the midst of arresting the distributors or perpetrators of these illegal Android boxes. As much as we want to access a variety of channels and networks in just one device at an affordable price, looking at the bigger picture is just as important.
Illegally downloading pirated content or streaming them via an unauthorised Android box can be dangerous, as some of these Android devices could be used as spying tools to collect personal data and other details, which could be used for commercial gains. The ban is also to be implemented to curb piracy activities and to stop the infringement of the copyright laws. Perhaps, the best way is to ensure your Android box is a certified device, which will not only save you big bucks...but probably also a jail term.