Dear the Malaysian Government,

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recent endorsement of “Sheriff Narko Integriti”, on June 13, illuminates the great potential of our local film industry.

This film, the highest-grossing in Malaysia for 2024 with RM64 million in box office earnings, showcases the immense talent and dedication of Malaysian writers, actors & filmmakers.

However, beneath this celebration lies a stark, troubling reality: digital piracy is ravaging our creative industry, undermining the very achievements you praised.

Because, in huge volumes, the scenes from “Sheriff” are being watched not in the grandeur of a cinema or a legal TV service, but on pirated streams where the creators & funders go completely uncompensated.

The problem, digital theft, has reached epidemic levels.

As an example, I was made to understand that despite rigorous efforts by Astro, including the shutdown of 30 Telegram groups with over 200,000 subscribers, —the pillage of Sheriff persists and seems to be unchecked / unaddressed by our lawmakers.

Mind you, it is not just Astro that is doing this.

For example, the Premier League has been working tirelessly to combat digital piracy. In 2024, it has successfully obtained a court order from Singapore’s High Court, mandating local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to 25 of the most popular illegal streaming websites.

Indonesia also has taken decisive actions. Their government, in collaboration with content platforms, has taken significant strides to combat piracy on Telegram.

The arrests of individuals behind the illegal distribution of content and the removal of pirated material from the platform demonstrate Indonesia’s unwavering commitment.

They have not hesitated to issue stern warnings, even threatening a nationwide block if Telegram fails to act against illegal online activities, including digital piracy and online gambling.

In fact, on May 25, 2023, a man was sentenced to jail for six years due to content piracy after stealing local and international content, including live-sports, from Indonesian OTT, Vidio, since 2019.

This firm stance, and high penalties, illustrates a dedication to protecting their creative industry and ensuring that creators are justly rewarded for their work.

Similarly, the Philippines is making bold moves to update its Intellectual Property Code and introduce site-blocking measures.

Their Senate’s proactive stance, supported by major industry players, underscores a national commitment to safeguarding the livelihoods of content creators.

Legislative proposals, like Senate Bill 2150 and Senate Bill 2385 in the Philippines, aim to restrict access to websites promoting copyright violations and to expand the authority of the Intellectual Property Office to initiate site-blocking measures.

These efforts reflect a deep understanding of the importance of intellectual property rights and the need to modernise laws to combat the evolving threats of digital piracy.

In Malaysia, despite the 2021 amendment to our Copyright Law adding Section 43AA(which criminalizes the use of streaming technology for copyright infringement) digital piracy remains a rampant menace.

This amendment followed a landmark ruling by the Kuala Lumpur Intellectual Property High Court in May 2021, declaring that selling, offering, or distributing TV boxes or streaming devices enabling unauthorized access to copyrighted content is an infringement.

And yet, despite these legal frameworks, enforcement towards this criminal act appears lax. The potential of this legal framework must be fully realised to ensure our creative industry can thrive without the constant threat of piracy.

The status quo cannot continue as thousands of livelihoods are at stake. The creative professionals who fuel our industry & produce brilliant content that showcases Malaysian talent deserve better protection.

The impact of piracy is far-reaching, affecting not just filmmakers, but actors, crew members, and everyone involved in the production and distribution of content.

When a film like “Sheriff” is pirated, it undermines the entire value chain, reducing the revenue or desire that supports future projects and limiting opportunities for creative talent to flourish.

Piracy also has broader economic implications. It hampers the growth of an industry, which has is a significant contributor to our national economy.

The creative sector creates jobs, fosters innovation, and enhances our cultural footprint on the global stage.

Every ringgit lost to piracy is a ringgit that could have been reinvested in new productions, marketing efforts, or technological advancements in the industry.

Furthermore, the fight against digital piracy is not just about protecting the profits of filmmakers. It is about upholding the principle of intellectual property rights, which are fundamental to a functioning and fair economy.

Intellectual property laws are designed to encourage innovation and creativity by ensuring that creators can reap the benefits of their hard work.

When these laws are flouted, it sends a message that creative efforts are not valued or protected, which can discourage future creators from pursuing their passions.

Dear the Malaysian Government, the power to initiate change lies in your hands. It is time for Malaysia to adopt a tougher stance against digital piracy, implement stringent measures, and ensure robust enforcement.

We need to follow the examples set by Indonesia and the Philippines. We must create a secure environment for our creative sector. Celebrating our successes is not enough; we must protect them.

The future of Malaysia’s creative industry depends on immediate, decisive action.

I urge we consider implementing similar measures as those in neighbouring countries, such as stronger enforcement of existing laws, increased penalties for offenders, and collaboration with content platforms to identify and shut down piracy operations.

Players such as Astro & Media Prima including local production houses such as Skop Production, Primeworks Studios and Act2 Pictures have already invested huge sums to tackle this issue & I am sure, would be most welcoming of your increased support.

Please stand firm against digital piracy and safeguard the integrity and future of Malaysian creativity.

Ensure that our creative industry does not only survives but thrives, so that it can contribute to our economy and enrich our cultural heritage.