Singapore is known for its strong parameters in place for Intellectual Property (IP) protection. Partnered with a pro-business government and high-class citizenship composed of foreign nationals and highly educated locals, the publishing industry is not lacking in demand for superior quality books, newspapers, magazines and even digital print materials in recent years. There are numerous guidelines to adhere to in the publishing industry, as well as differentiated licenses depending on the type of material being produced. Below are the most common licenses offered along with some tips to keep in mind when venturing into this industry.
Printing Press License
Any business that owns and uses a printing press must apply for this license, whether it’s for printing newspapers, magazines, pamphlets or any such documents. The exemption is for presses used to print invoices, name cards, letterheads and other collaterals for the company’s own use.
Prior to application for the license, a company must secure the approval of the Urban Development Authority to use an office or premises for printing press purposes.
There is no license application fee and it usually takes only three working days to process the application.
The definition of newspapers in Singapore covers leisure and entertainment magazines, newsletters and the like. They are any type of publication that reports on events, intelligence or contain forms of opinion or observations. Whether they are printed in English or other languages, sold or given for free, these publications fall under the ‘newspaper’ category. Publications which are produced on a weekly basis should be formed as a “newspaper company” as legislated under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act. An offshore newspaper company that distributes more than 300 copies of papers discussing political and current affairs on a weekly basis, also has to apply for a newspaper permit.
The permit covers sale and distribution, as well as production, of such newspapers in Singapore. There is no application fee required, however the permit does take an average of 15 days to be processed and approved. There are specific application forms depending on the type of newspaper, these can be accessed and downloaded from the Info-Comm and Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) website.
The initial or pilot publication of the newspaper must be executed within three months of obtaining the permit. Two copies of every publication must be submitted thereafter.
The permit is valid for exactly one year. Renewal of which can be done as early as eight weeks before the expiry date given.
Though there is no specific license or permit required for online publications, especially for those who charge a subscription fee, there is a need to register with the Info-Comm and Media Development Authority. The registration form should be submitted within the first 14 days of the first online publishing.
Printing Press License
In order to keep and use a press for the printing of documents, including pamphlets, maps and charts, this license must be attained. The application should take around 3 days to process. Prior to applying for the license, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore should also be informed for permission to use the premise as a printing press.
Important Regulations to Note
Newspaper content that includes topics on race, morality, religion and Singaporean government interests must follow guidelines specified by the IMDA.
Any sort of publication that somehow puts down a specific race or religion is barred from production and distribution in Singapore.
Publications that feature adult content are required to place a warning “Not Suitable for the Young” on their issues.
Other such guidelines include:
- Content Guidelines for Imported Publications
- Undesirable Publications Act Guidelines
- Internet Industry Guidelines
- Internet Code of Practice
 For offshore-produced newspapers, a bank guarantee of SGD 200,000 is required before obtaining a permit