HK to revive bill bolstering copyright law as minister warns satire and parodies must toe national security line

25-Nov-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:19 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong will resurrect controversial legislation to rework its intellectual property regime and offer certain exemptions for the education sector, libraries, museums, archives and online service providers, the government has revealed.

The revised bill, shelved twice before, would strike a balance between creativity and technological development while protecting private property rights, officials said on Wednesday.

The new regime would be based on criteria outlined in the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, which sparked fears of potential restrictions on creative freedom.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said the proposed changes to the existing Copyright Ordinance would not contain any elements related to the national security law imposed by Beijing last year.

“We aim to strike a proper balance between the legitimate interests of copyright owners and users, and serve the best interests of Hong Kong,” Yau said.

New exemptions were being planned for content deemed parody, satire, caricature and pastiche, as well as comments about current events and quotations of copyrighted works.

The legislation would also revise and expand exceptions on how copyrighted works could be used to facilitate online learning, a category affecting the operation of libraries, archives and museums.

But Yau said parodies and satires in general would have to align with the national security law, while stopping short of offering examples of what might be deemed a breach.

Dubbed internet Article 23 by some members of the public, a reference to the section of the Basic Law requiring the Legislative Council to pass its own national security legislation, the bill is undergoing public consultation between now and February 23 next year.

In her latest policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stressed that the government would carry out a series of initiatives to promote the development of intellectual property trading.

But Yau argued the city lagged behind overseas jurisdictions in copyright protection by a decade.

“The 2014 version of amendments was a reasonable starting point. It came after rounds of deliberations and went through its second reading at Legco, but couldn’t proceed because of filibustering,” Yau said.

The government was forced to drop the bill in 2016 after fierce opposition by pan-democrats in the Legislative Council and internet users who mistrusted the aim of the amendments and potential implications for freedom of speech.

But the political landscape has since been dramatically reshaped by Beijing’s overhaul of the electoral system aimed at ensuring only “patriots” held power and which led to the traditional opposition block withdrawing from the coming December 19 Legco election.

Yau revealed the bill was slated to be presented during the coming legislative year but did not say whether the government expected it to pass before the session recess next July.

Director of Intellectual Property David Wong said there was no clear-cut definition of what would constitute a work of parody or satire, saying it would be judged by “common sense”.

“It is common for other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom not to define these types of work,” he said.

Wong stressed that the court would decide whether a copyright law infringement would be treated as a criminal offence by determining the extent of the breach, the economic losses suffered by the rights holders and other factors.

Under the existing Copyright Ordinance, a person can be jailed for up to four years for making, importing, exporting or selling works without the license of the rights holder.

Anyone who makes, imports, exports, sells or has possession of an item specifically adapted or designed to make copies of an original work can be jailed for up to eight years and fined a maximum of HK$500,000.

According to the 2014 bill, those who commit copyright piracy by making or possessing infringed articles can be subject to a term of imprisonment of up to four years and a fine of HK$50,000 per article.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.