Key messages for the second reading of Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014

Hong Kong’s legislature is nearing final votes on the Copyright Amendments 2014. The amendments are critical to the future of the content industries in the SAR; they bring digital copyright principles to Hong Kong for the first time. The law is in dire need of updating, to take account of legal and illegal digital distribution of copyrighted materials, including entire packages of pay-TV programming. CASBAA, in its submission, noted “The 10 years of delay in formulating…these amendments mean that online piracy problems have grown and changed far beyond the expectations of those who began this process, including both government and industry.” When the bill was first introduced, the broadcasting industry – as well as other copyright-dependent sectors – warned the legislature that Hong Kong is losing jobs to piracy.

CASBAA’s position continues to be strongly supportive of passage of this Act: “we urge the Legislative Council to move as quickly as possible to pass the Bill now on the table. And we urge the government to move quickly to implement – through subsidiary legislation, Codes of Practice, or further improvements to the laws – further measures to stem the massive increase in online piracy of television programming.”

Legislators have proposed many amendments to the legislation. Some of them are spurious and many are purely linguistic, but some raise controversial issues, including proposing to give netizens the right to publish whatever content they want under the guise of “user-generated programming,” to institute a US-style “fair use” system (without US common law underpinning it), and to void contracts that might constraint their ability to do permitted acts. Some of these issues have not been considered before in the legislature, and others were debated years ago; we oppose their ill-considered inclusion at the last minute in this legislation, but will welcome more systematic and inclusive consultation by the government on these topics, after the legislature meets the vital need for action, now.