Proposed amendments to the Films Act

The proposed amendments to the Films Act include expanding investigation and enforcement powers of officers from the Info-communication Media Development Authority of Singapore (“IMDA”). Currently, the Film Act allows IMDA and Police officers to enter premises without warrant to search for and seize unlawful films and equipment used in the commission of offences related to Party Political Films (“PPFs”), absence and unclassified films. Under the proposed amendments, enforcement and investigation for breaches under the Films Act will be taken on by IMDA, and the police will only be called on when necessary. Briefly, the proposed enhancements to IMDA’s investigation and enforcement powers are as follows:

  1. Request any documents and information from any person to investigate a suspected breach of the Films Act or licence conditions;
  2. Enter any premises without warrant to search and seize evidence of commission of offence under the Films Act. However, a person who wishes to contest the seizure may do so within 48 hours. The court can, among other things, confirm or disallow the seizure in part or whole, or restore the item to the owner subject to the item being preserved and produced when subsequently required;
  3. Dispose of films, equipment or materials that have been seized during enforcement and is unclaimed, forfeited or has to be disposed without returning to the owner; and
  4. Provide for the composition of offences.

A major concern raised by key stakeholders was the expanded scope of powers that the IMDA officers will have in investigating breaches. In particular, there were concerns that the proposed amendments would enable any IMDA officer to enter and search private homes without warrant, and seize personal equipment such as laptops, hard disks and mobile phones. In a recent Closing Note to the Public Consultation on the Proposed Amendments to the Films Act issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information’s/Info-Communications Media Development Authority, it was clarified that the powers of entry and search without a warrant would only apply to offences relating to: (a)PPFs, obscene and prohibited films; (b) distribution and public exhibition of unclassified films; and (c) unlicensed public exhibition of films. It was further clarified that such powers will only be exercised when there are reasonable grounds to believe that these specific offences have been committed or are being committed, or that evidence of the commission of these specific offences can be found in the premises.

The Films (Amendment) Bill is targeted to be introduced in Parliament in the first quarter of 2018.

If you have any queries pertaining to this article, please feel free to contact Mr Ivan Qiu at ivanqiu@straitslaw.com.sg or the Straits Law Director who usually attends to your matters. Article by Ivan Qiu (Associate) with contributions from Clara Lim (Practice Trainee).