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Business News (more headlines) 06-14-2014

Hong Kong Government To Introduce Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014

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The Government will introduce the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 into the Legislative Council (LegCo) on June 18 to update Hong Kong's copyright regime and ensure that it keeps pace with technological and overseas developments.

The Bill also provides a number of copyright exceptions to facilitate reasonable uses of copyright works.

A Government spokesperson said today (June 11) that a robust copyright regime is the cornerstone for the development of creative industries in Hong Kong. "In pace with the rapid development of the knowledge-based economy, we keep our copyright law under regular review to ensure its effectiveness. Key proposals contained in the Bill were formulated during extensive consultations since 2006 and they reflect a fair balance between the legitimate interests of copyright owners, users and the general public," he said.

Key proposals under the Bill include:

(a) introducing a technology-neutral exclusive right for copyright owners to communicate their works through any mode of electronic transmission. The new right will assist copyright owners in exploiting their works in the digital environment and promote the development of digital content;

(b) introducing corresponding criminal sanctions against unauthorised communication of copyright works to the public. To allay concerns about the possible impact on the free flow of information across the Internet and to provide greater legal certainty, the legislation will clarify the criminal liability of causing prejudice to the copyright owner and provide that the court will examine all the circumstances of a case and in particular the economic prejudice, having regard to whether the infringing copy amounts to a substitution for the work;

(c) expanding the scope of copyright exception under the existing law to balance copyright protection and reasonable uses of copyright works and to protect users' freedom of expression, by exempting criminal and civil liabilities for the following purposes in appropriate circumstances:

(i) parody, satire, caricature and pastiche;
(ii) commenting on current events;
(iii) quotation;
(iv) temporary reproduction of copyright works by Online Service Providers (OSPs), which is technically required for the digital transmission process to function efficiently;
(v) media shifting of sound recordings;
(vi) giving educational instructions (especially for distance learning) and facilitating daily operations of libraries, archives and museums;

(d) establishing a statutory "safe harbour" for OSPs so that their liabilities for copyright infringement occurring on their service platforms could be limited, provided that OSPs meet certain prescribed conditions, including the taking of reasonable steps to limit or stop copyright infringement when being notified. The proposal aims at facilitating OSPs' handling of alleged infringements balancing the interests between copyright owners and users; and

(e) introducing additional factors for the court to consider in assessing damages in civil cases in which infringement has been established.

The spokesperson said, "Hong Kong's copyright regime needs to be updated as soon as possible. Since the late 1990s, many overseas countries such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore have already changed their copyright laws to respond to rapid technological developments.

"In formulating legislative proposals, we have maintained a close dialogue with key stakeholders including copyright owners, users and OSPs, to listen to their views and ensure that the Bill maintains a reasonable balance between the interests of different stakeholders.

"On the one hand, the Bill will enhance copyright protection in the digital environment and help combat large scale online piracy. On the other hand, the proposed copyright exceptions will take care of many common Internet activities such as parody and safeguard users' freedom of expression. The Government will continue to liaise with LegCo and stakeholders in the ensuing updating exercise," the spokesperson said.

The Government introduced in 2011 the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011 to update the copyright law. Wide-ranging views on parody were expressed in the community during the examination of the Bill in LegCo. After thorough scrutiny, the LegCo Bills Committee supported passage of the Bill with suitable amendments. But, owing to other pressing business LegCo had to transact, the Bill did not resume the Second Reading Debate and lapsed upon expiry of the previous term of LegCo.

The Government conducted a public consultation exercise from July to November last year to explore how parody should be taken care of as appropriate under our copyright regime having due regard to present day circumstances. After considering the views received, overseas experiences and the guiding principles identified for the consultation exercise, the Government proposed a number of copyright exceptions for parody and related uses, and combined the new proposals with the legislative proposals under the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011 to form the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014.

The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 will be published in the gazette on June 13 and introduced into LegCo for First and Second Readings on June 18.

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