Every four years, Singaporeans put down their life savings betting on some foreign country’s football team and pray that they won’t screw up. Never mind if you have no idea where Germany is on the world map or think Brazil is a European country, it’s time to place your bets!
Except that… World Cup matches are not broadcasted for free in Singapore. That means you will need to buy a World Cup broadcast package from Singtel, StarHub or Mediacorp in order to watch the matches at home.
These packages cost $94.16 until 22 May, but now they cost $112.35. For punters, signing up for one of these packages is like having to pay a levy to enter a casino—you’re down before you even start.
So, how can you watch World Cup matches at home without having to pay for a package? And is it even legal?
Using a VPN to access overseas networks
BBC and ITV Sport will be broadcasting the matches for free, as will Russian networks. Malaysia’s TV2 Online Live Streaming will also be showing the matches.
There’s just one small problem, though. These websites cannot be accessed in Singapore. Try to stream videos and you’ll receive the message that they’re blocked in your country.
Just as people in China use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in order to access Facebook and other banned sites, Singaporeans can do likewise in order to access these networks.
The VPN will encrypt data from your computer to the network, so it won’t be able to tell where you are. You will thus be able to access streaming services that are normally blocked in Singapore.
Is it legal? Right now, the law is silent on VPNs. That means using VPNs is not officially illegal. Yay! But that might change in the near future, following a 2016 consultation on VPNs.
Sports streaming platforms like Acestream
The internet is littered with a ton of free sports streaming platforms and sites like Livefootballol that let you watch football matches in real time.
The quality varies from okay to crappy, and you might have to risk lags or the network going down at a crucial moment, but these services allow you the convenience of not having to hide behind a VPN.
One of the most popular is Acestream, popular for its reliability and high definition display. Watching matches on Acestream is a bit more complicated than using a direct streaming website as you’ll need to download their media player first. But the quality is so much better that for many it’s worth this extra step.
Is it legal? Downloading or possessing copies of illegal content is illegal in Singapore. However, to date, nobody has been prosecuted for illegally streaming content on the Internet. And while content right holders have been trying to pressure the government to crack down on piracy, little has been done. That means that streaming matches using those laggy streaming sites is probably fine.
When it comes to Acestream, however, be aware that your computer is actually downloading and then uploading fragments of videos to other users torrent-style. That means that technically you could indeed get into trouble.
What are the penalties? If you get caught for distributing copyrighted content, the copyright holder can technically try to claim damages from you. In this context, that could mean the legal broadcasters or FIFA themselves.
Try to access Malaysia’s RTM1/2
So of course, some people have tried to access RTM from Singapore.
If you live in a neighbourhood that’s close to the border with Malaysia (eg. Jurong, Choa Chu Kang, Woodlands) you might be able to receive signals from our neighbours up North by fiddling around with your antenna, positioning it at the window or simply downloading the RTM mobile app.
You can also buy a set-top box (not officially illegal) to stream Malaysian channels.
Is it illegal? Using a set-top box is, surprise surprise, absolutely not illegal in Singapore so long as you are accessing legitimate content. On the other hand, if you are using it to unscramble signals for content that must be paid for, you are committing an offence.
Since Malaysia will be broadcasting the World Cup matches for free, if you somehow manage to watch these on a legal device, you are not committing an offence.
How do you plan to watch the World Cup 2018 matches? Tell us in the comments!