Division over Hong Kong’s Copyright Bill_20.12.2015

Division over Hong Kong’s Copyright Bill


Rebecca Hawkes

| 18 December 2015

Hong Kong’s controversial new Copyright Bill is entering a third day of debate in the Legislative Council as lawmakers consider updates to the city’s outdated regulations.

Opponents to Hong Kong’s Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 have this week been protesting against concerns of free speech on the Internet, while the entertainment industry has again spoken of the need to prevent online video piracy through the new bill.

Initially tabled in 2011, the bill was withdrawn after a public outcry. The government re-tabled it in 2012 with six proposed exemptions to the use of copyrighted materials (including parody, satire, caricature, pastiche or commentary on current affairs) to address concerns over freedom of expression.

While the Federation of Trade Unions has urged the government to withdraw the bill and re-start the consultation process, the Asian multichannel broadcast body CASBAA has expressed “the strongest possible support for immediate passage of the Copyright Amendment Bill” without amendment.

After 11 hours of discussion the parliamentary session was suspended on Thursday (17 December) without a vote, with a further day’s debate to continue today (18 December).

“A sound system of intellectual property protection is a key part of the knowledge-based economy. The bill will help development of the creative industries,” said Gregory So, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, during the debate.

“The Legislative Council should adopt the bill as soon as possible so that all parties and stakeholders benefit. Then society can also focus on the next round of review to consider how to further improve the existing copyright system,” he added.

In stark contrast, pan Democrat lawmaker Raymond Wong Yuk-man warned: “Conventional media have been undermined in Hong Kong. The Internet is the last place we have any freedom.”

However, speaking at a press conference, John Medeiros, chief policy officer, CASBAA said: “Passage of the bill is important to establish the legal basis for copyright in the digital age. We live in a time when technological development has far outraced the ability of existing laws to create clean practices in the digital world – and clean practices are needed online as much as in the real world.

“For my industry – the television industry – we are facing an onslaught of digital piracy, fuelled by multinational criminal syndicates operating streaming media ‘black box’ networks and websites which intercept our signals, steal our programming, hijack our domains, defraud our advertisers and deceive our customers.

“Currently Hong Kong law is powerless to deal with most of these activities; Hong Kong’s law enforcers agree that we desperately need a new legal framework, as well as new international enforcement practices to deal with the transnational aspects of these crimes,” added Medeiros.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong added: “We have seen the decline of the formerly thriving Hong Kong film production industry. We have seen a number of international media companies downsizing and relocating their regional headquarters out of Hong Kong. We cannot tolerate the reconsideration of Hong Kong as a regional headquarter by foreign companies due to inadequate legal regime.”