Hong Kong

Stark Messages for Hong Kong: You Are Losing Jobs to Piracy; Copyright Law Badly Needs Fixing

Friday, 24 October 2014

The local and international television industries united this week in delivering a stark message to Hong Kong's Legislature: the rise of online piracy is already damaging jobs and investment in one of Asia's leading media hubs, and urgent legal and enforcement action is needed to restore some level of balance in a Copyright environment that has badly deteriorated.

The messages came in a series of TV industry submissions to a legislative panel considering improvements to Hong Kong's Copyright Ordinance. The law has never been updated to take account of legal and illegal digital distribution of copyrighted materials, including individual programs, linear channel streams, and 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."

Download CASBAA submission

A series of submissions from international media groups using Hong Kong as their Asian headquarters, as well as Hong Kong's major indigenous TV producer TVB and leading telecommunications network provider PCCW, offered similar messages. Here is a selection (in alphabetical order) of key quotes:

CNN"...legitimate content distributors face unfair competition from platforms and online services that provide and facilitate access to pirated content with little or no investment in content or infrastructure. Declining revenue puts increasing pressure on CNN International's ability to cover and report big news stories in the way consumers demand."

Download CNN Submission

Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific"The current Copyright Ordinance, last amended in July 2001, is outdated and does not provide an effective legal framework to tackle infringements in the changing new media landscape. At present, the balance is heavily tilted away from a comprehensive protection of copyrights."

Download Discovery submission

Fox International Channels" We strongly urge the Legislative Council to initiate further reform of the Copyright Ordinance to protect legitimate rights holders and industry participants who invest significant amounts of money in the local film and television industry to produce and acquire content, providing employment to many people in Hong Kong, only to have such content stolen by unscrupulous illegitimate operators who do not contribute anything in return."

Download FIC submission

HBO"...we are witnessing a decreased willingness of consumers to pay a fair price for programming....subscription revenue in the pay-TV industry is declining, and jobs are already being affected."

Download HBO submission

PCCW/nowTV"We urge the Government not to be sidetracked....With every day of delay, more jobs are at risk, investment goes elsewhere and Hong Kong's standing as a media hub is diminished."

Download PCCW Media Submission

Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB)"TVB has been suffering huge losses due to the online piracy problem. We are cutting jobs to keep our business, especially our overseas pay-TV operations, going. There is really no time to lose in implementing solutions."

Download TVB Submission

Time Warner"While online piracy is undoubtedly a global challenge, as a result of Hong Kong's inadequate copyright laws which have not kept up with the growth of both the digital content and digital transmission industries, the problem of online piracy is exacerbated in Hong Kong."

Download Time Warner Submission

Turner Broadcasting"...it is notable that Hong Kong is increasingly falling behind nations that were formerly its peers in creating a positive environment for intellectual property. Other governments (such as in the UK, Korea, and Singapore) have sought, and implemented, creative approaches to deal with streaming piracy."

Download Turner Submission

Twenty First Century Fox"...the ten-year delay in formulating amendments to Hong Kong's copyright laws has been troubling both for us and the local Hong Kong creative community that we work with and support. It has allowed online piracy to metastasize to the point that it directly threatens creative content companies..."

Download 21CF Submission

And the television industry is not alone – other creative industries are also pleading for relief. The Hong Kong Copyright Alliance (an umbrella group of companies and associations in the film, music, television, publishing, software, and electronic games industries) told the Legco "Failure to introduce an updated copyright legislation would stifle Hong Kong's creative industries, ultimately hurting consumers."

Download the submission by the Hong Kong Copyright Alliance


WIPO Expert: HK Is Right To Reject A Copyright Exception for UGC

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A leading international expert in copyright law published a commentary on Hong Kong's proposed approach to user-generated content (UGC), in which he concludes that "to guarantee safe harmony with international treaties", the government is wise not to pursue a sweeping exception for UGC. Dr. Mihaly Ficsor is former Assistant Director (Copyright) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and his commentary can be found on the website of the Hong Kong Layer magazine, here.

"Netizen" advocacy groups in Hong Kong used the recent public consultation on exceptions for parody and political commentary to demand exceptions for all user-generated content, and they continue to press their case in the Legislative Council. The HK government's legislative proposal rejected a sweeping exception and proposed more targeted exceptions to make sure there is no obstacle to parody and political commentary. Dr. Ficsor says this is the right approach: genuine parody is "a typical form of UGC creation" which deserves support through "fine-tuned exceptions", but "the concept of UGC is too broad and vague" and a broad exception will likely conflict with WIPO's own treaties and their "three-step test" for copyright exceptions.

While netizens groups propose simple-sounding safeguards, they are frequently unworkable. Dr. Ficsor observes that, for example, just stating that UGC should be excepted as long as it has no commercial purpose doesn't cut the ice, as "even if the (user-generated) adaptation does not generate profit for its creator, the websites on which UGC adaptations are included are themselves usually profit-oriented (based, in general, on advertisement money)."

Noting that the European Union (among other governments) recently also rejected proposals for a broad UGC exception, Dr. Ficsor says "there does not seem to be any real need to legislate on UGC." The situation is hardly different in Hong Kong from the EU, he says, where a just-published White Paper notes: "There is a lack of evidence that the current legal framework for copyright puts a brake on or inhibits UGC (absence of 'chilling effect')". On the other side, a broad exception for secondary adaptations risks damaging primary creation: "Possible exceptions aimed at facilitating secondary productions must not endanger the sustainable creation and production of the primary works," says Dr. Ficsor.

For those following the political dialectic in the Hong Kong legislature, the commentary is worth reading in its entirety.


Content and ISP Industries Unite: HK Copyright Legislation Must Go Ahead

Friday, 15 March 2013

A coalition of Hong Kong copyright associations (including CASBAA) and internet service providers is urging the SAR government to move expeditiously to enact copyright amendments that were six years in the making, but which stalled in the Legislative Council before it adjourned for elections last summer. At that time the legislation was criticized because of allegations it would restrain political parodies based on photos and other copyrighted works. The coalition noted that the legislation represents “a balance of considerations for all stakeholders, including many safeguards for real ‘parody’,” and urged the government to swiftly amend the 2011 bill, clarify the proposed criminal liability relating to “parody,” and submit the Bill to the Legislative Council “at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Download the full statement of the coalition here.

For its part, CASBAA joined the coalition in supporting rapid passage of the existing legislation, believing that broad-based unity of stakeholders in legitimate content is important, and noting that Hong Kong’s policy development process has dragged on for far too long. But the bill itself is no panacea. CASBAA’s Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros described it as “thin gruel” that will “do little or nothing to stem the rampant growth in online piracy of TV content in Hong Kong.” CASBAA urges the government to proceed rapidly to obtain enactment of this bill, and then move on rapidly to taking serious action to deal with the real problems of piracy in the digital age.

CASBAA joins other Hong Kong industry associations in an exchange of views with Hong Kong legislators from the IT sector.   On the left, IT Sector Representative Charles Mok, and Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros.  At right, directly-elected legislator Sin Chung-Kai.

CASBAA joins other Hong Kong industry associations in an exchange of views with Hong Kong legislators from the IT sector.   On the left, IT Sector Representative Charles Mok, and Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros.  At right, directly-elected legislator Sin Chung-Kai.


Hong Kong’s Online Code of Practice Still Offers No Deterrent Against Signal Piracy

Monday, 05 March 2012

CASBAA told the Hong Kong government its revised Code of Practice for online service providers – while potentially beneficial in addressing the problem of pirated material stored on servers within Hong Kong – still provides no effective deterrence against streaming piracy of broadcast signals.  More steps are needed, CASBAA said, and soon.   See the submission here.



Digital Piracy: Hong Kong is “Behind the Curve”

Monday, 12 September 2011

CASBAA told Hong Kong’s government that the SAR’s “broadcasting hub” economy has a very large stake in stemming the growth of online piracy.   Steps proposed in a government-proposed Code of Practice for Online Service Providers will not substantially improve the situation, the Association said.   By proposing to treat P2P streaming of pirate broadcasts only as a minor item to be handled in a “notice-and-notice” system without any real disincentives, the Hong Kong authorities are shooting the SAR’s creative industries in the foot.   Meanwhile, “other governments...have begun implementing systems designed to offer effective deterrence to distribution and consumption of such pirate streams,” said CASBAA.

Read the full letter to Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau here.


CASBAA Urges Improvement of HK Copyright Legislation

Friday, 22 July 2011

In a submission to Hong Kong's Legislative Council, CASBAA repeated its concern that the current Copyright Amendments bill, the product of six years of discussion to update Hong Kong's legislation for the digital era, "will not in itself do much to deter further rapid growth in online piracy of television content." CASBAA urged the SAR authorities to add to the legislation provisions to encourage ISPs to adopt policies to assist with consumer education, and deter abuse of the internet by serial infringers. View the Legislative Council submission here.


Frustration at the Pace of Hong Kong’s Digital Copyright Reforms

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

CASBAA told a panel of the Hong Kong legislature that digital copyright reform was taking too long. The Association urged that Hong Kong move forward now with a system of “graduated response” to deal with the massive problem of streaming pirated pay-TV content. View the submission here.

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CASBAA's submission on the Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment

Friday, 29 August 2008

CASBAA's submission on preliminary proposals for strengthening copyright protection in the digital environment. 

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CASBAA's submission on the Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment

Thursday, 26 July 2007

CASBAA submits to the Hong Kong SAR the Association's views on the questions raised in the consultation paper on Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment.

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Submission to Bills Committee on the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2006

Thursday, 27 April 2006

CASBAA's submission to Bills Committee of Hong Kong Legislative Council on the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2006.


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