Hong Kong Debates Copyright Laws

A United States consulate has urged Hong Kong to update its copyright law to help protect artists and promote creativity and innovation.

Pan-democrats have proposed three amendments to the Copyright Bill 2014 – fair use, user-generated content and contract override. Consulate spokeswoman Darragh Paradiso said the laws should better reflect the digital media environment of today.

“The United States has consistently affirmed that protecting intellectual property rights is essential to the promotion of creativity and innovation,” Paradiso stated. “Strong IPR protection fosters the creative work of artists, inventors, and start-up entrepreneurs and is integral to the rule of law and good governance. We continue to encourage the active engagement of all parties to modernise Hong Kong’s intellectual property laws to better reflect today’s digital media environment.”

The Hong Kong Copyright Alliance held their reschedule press conference this past Thursday to oppose the three proposed amendments. The original meeting last Sunday was disrupted by a radical activist group; ten members of Civic Passion turned up to the press meeting on December 10, causing a scuffle and promoting participants to walk out.

At the press conference on Thursday, managing director of the Hong Kong International Screen Association – who was standing in for the alliance spokesman Peter Lam Yuk-wah – said that it was too late to make last-minute amendments to a bill that has already taken over a decade to formulate.

“We accept the government’s [copyright] bill with tears in our eyes,” said Ho, who said the alliance had hoped for an even stricter law but had agreed to compromise in order to pass the bill first. “We are over a decade behind the rest of the world in copyright laws and it’s affecting our competitiveness [in the industry].”

The bill, which is currently under debate in the Legislative Council, exempts derivative material based on copyrighted works from criminal and civil liability if the material is used for parody, satire, caricature, pastiche or commentary on current events. Sufficient acknowledgement will still need to be provided if copyright material is used.

Chief Executive officer of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and a member of the alliance, Ricky Fung Tim-chee, stated that adding the three amendments would render the law “completely useless” and unable to protect copyrighted work.

The current situation in Hong Kong shines a light on how serious a problem that copyright laws are in this day in age. When artists’ work is not properly protected, it hurts everyone.