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

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DISCOVERY NETWORKS ASIA-PACIFIC“The current Copyright Ordinance, last amended in July 2001, is outdated and does not provide an effective legal framework to tackle infringements in the changing new media landscape.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