Broadcaster Offers Pirates ‘Free’ Legal TV Box in Exchange For Giving Up Illegal Streams

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TV pirates in Singapore are being offered an interesting deal in an effort to discourage them from consuming content via illegal sources. Owners of piracy-configured devices can hand them over to telecoms company StarHub for destruction and in return receive a free legal device with Ultra HD 4K support. Of course, there are some strings attached.

Starhub logoOn July 6, a new Copyright Bill was tabled in the Singapore Parliament. There are many amendments under consideration that are designed to protect creators and distributors of all kinds.

For example, there are proposals to ensure that creators of works are recognized as the first owners of that content, even when that work is commissioned by a third party. It will also be a requirement to properly attribute creators when content is displayed in public, such as online.

Additionally, when copyright works are accessed legally, they can be used for data analysis, without asking permission from copyright holders. It’s proposed that the current “fair-dealing” approach should be amended to “fair use” too, absent of several criteria that limited the old regime.

Other proposals on the table include a crackdown on the sale and use of set-top devices that are configured for piracy purposes. Should the proposals be accepted, such devices will become illegal to sell and to own, with companies facing fines of up to S$200,000 (US$147,000) and individuals on the hook for penalties of up to S$100,000 (US$73,475) and/or five years in jail.

The second reading of the bill is scheduled for September 2021 but in advance of that, TV pirates are being presented with an incentive to go straight and avoid falling foul of the new law.

Hand Over Your Pirate Box For Destruction

Last Friday, telecoms company StarHub launched a new offer designed to tempt pirates away from the dark side. Given that their piracy-configured boxes may be outlawed in just a few months, prospective customers are being offered the chance to hand them over to StarHub (to be destroyed and disposed of “in a responsible and sustainable way”) and in return receive an entirely legal streaming device.

“Starting [July 24], StarHub will grant a total of $120 to each customer willing to part ways with pirate set-top boxes that may not be in compliance with the proposed amendments to Singapore’s Copyright Act,” the company announced.

“In exchange, customers will get free two-year rental of StarHub TV+ Box (worth $120), a plug-and-play Android TV-based media player which offers one-screen-for-all cinematic viewing experience with Ultra HD 4K support and fast WiFi connectivity.”

To take advantage of the deal, pirate devices can be handed in at selected StarHub Shops but at the same time, consumers will be required to sign up to StarHub’s recently-launched TV+ deal which includes Disney+ until February 2023.

StarHub piracy deal

“StarHub is delighted to be able to support the creation of original content, uphold intellectual property rights, and make a stand against piracy by offering customers the best value yet, on our StarHub TV+ service,” said Johan Buse, Chief, Consumer Business Group, StarHub.

“There is no better time than now to cast away outmoded illegal boxes, support original, and give StarHub TV+ a go.”

A Good Deal or Not?

While any deal that can save consumers money is worth a look, the big question is whether that is indeed the case here. Looking at the device exchange itself, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Considering that most pirate boxes are Android-based, people will be handing over their devices to StarHub and getting an official box back – which is also an Android TV device, one that has been customized with a StarHub-branded Operator Tier provided by Google. This means that the device will favor StarHub channels and content by default.

However, there is a more significant issue. While pirates will be handing over an Android device and getting something back largely of equivalent value, they won’t own the StarHub device. In fact, what StarHub is offering is the device “rent-free” for 24 months, meaning that after two years, users will be expected to rent it at the rate of S$5.00 (US$3.67) per month.

Also, people who turn in pirate boxes and subscribe to the recommended packages won’t get a special deal above and beyond the deal currently being offered to regular new customers, which also includes Disney+ until February 2023.

Summary: Might Be Of Interest To Some Pirates

When everything is broken down, the deal might be of interest to pirates who are disappointed with the unreliability of pirate streams, can now afford to ‘go straight’, are concerned about what the new law may bring, and are ready to switch anyway.

Essentially, pirates will hand over a device worth about US$30 and get one back of an equivalent value. However, since StarHub values its devices at a rental value of US$3.67 per month, the company is portraying savings of US$88.00 over two years. At this point, however, the former pirate will own no boxes at all and will be required to pay US$3.67 per month to rent one, just like everyone else.

At the very least, these devices should’ve been rent-free forever, especially when one considers that the package being promoted costs S$30.00 (US$22.00) per month and requires a two-year commitment. On the flip side, anyone ready to sign up to StarHub who isn’t a pirate might be advised to grab an old Android box of any kind to redeem since that will save them a few dollars – at least for the first couple of years.


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