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Use of VPN to be reviewed

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Revisions to Copyright Act

The legality of virtual private network (VPN) technology, which allows unauthorised content from overseas to be accessed, is being reviewed.

The Ministry of Law has proposed the review as part of a number of revisions it is suggesting to the Copyright Act, last updated in 2004, The Straits Times reported.

In consultation papers released yesterday, the ministry asked for a review of the current exceptions that allow for circumventions of "technological protection measures", which act like digital locks to restrict the access or use of copyrighted works.

Under the current law, tertiary educational institutions are allowed to "unlock" short clips of movies to critique them, and libraries are allowed to "unlock" old software to preserve it in an operational state.

The current law is silent on the use of VPN technologies, which can also unlock geographical restrictions on content. For instance, consumers in Singapore have been using VPN to stream movies online meant for overseas markets.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos), which had a part in putting together the consultation paper, recognises that there are "some complications" surrounding the use of VPN.

"There are some concerns that bypassing geo-blocks could infringe copyright," said Mr Daren Tang, chief executive of Ipos.

Neverthless, Singapore remains a strong supporter of parallel import, which is essentially what VPN allows in the digital world, he added.

The ministry also proposed that data collation be allowed for data mining to support the growth of the data analytics business sector. Another proposed change is allowing public schools to reproduce and share content on student portals for teaching purposes. The consultation will end on Oct 24.

"These reviews will further strengthen our IP (intellectual property) regime and allow it to keep current with technological advances, business needs and societal developments," Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said.