Hong Kong: Online copyright law to be tightened

Hong Kong: Online copyright law to be tightened


The government is proposing an amendment to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, which seeks to impose criminal sanctions to online copyright infringement, including parody and re-creation.

The government intends to bring the amended law into force during the 2011-12 legislative session, and said it prefers to deal with the proposal for statutory exemption regarding use of copyright works separately, given that it is a rather complicated issue requiring careful study and public consultation.

Chan Kam-lam, chairman of the relevant Legislative Council bills committee, said some committee members have raised the question of statutory exemption. Since the exemption proposal is not part of the bill, it is more appropriate to deal with the existing bill and have it carried as soon as possible, he said.

If Internet users feel they need greater protection of their creativity and freedom of circulation, the question of exemption can be dealt with at a later stage, he said.

The bill now under scrutiny of the committee proposes that a person will face criminal liability if he circulates by electronic means copyright works, for parody and satirical purposes without the permission of the copyright owners, whether the purpose be for financial reward, or to cause harm to the copyright owners. For example, fixing a person’s head image to another person's photograph or changing the tune or lyrics of a song for satirical purpose without permission of the copyright owners may fall into that category.

A government spokesman said on Thursday that the amendment bill has not narrowed freedom of expression. The threshold of criminal prosecution for online copyright violation is the same as the threshold of prosecution of copyright violation of printed materials. In drafting the law, the government has referenced arrangements in foreign jurisdictions well-known to Hong Kong, including the UK, Australiaand Canada.

The threshold of criminal prosecution in Hong Kongis similar to that in foreign jurisdictions, added the spokesman, referring to relevant court rulings overseas. All the copyright infringements aim at reaping financial gains, and the copyright works are almost 100 percent reproduced and are accessible to a very great number of people, he added.

As to the question of exemption, he said it is rather controversial. In the UK, the issue has not been settled after two rounds of public consultation, while a third round is still pending.

The issues of copyright protection and statutory exemption are not mutually exclusive, he said. In the UK, the two issues are dealt with separately, with the enactment of the principal legislation coming first. If the two issues are dealt with at the same time, it will take a very long time.

The amendment should be made as soon as possible, knowing that technology advances day by day, said the spokesman.

Source:China Daily

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