HK copyright bill political football for the opposition

Updated: 2015-12-09 08:10

(China Daily)

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HK copyright bill political football for the opposition

Pirated publications and CDs are destroyed in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, on Thursday, to mark World Intellectual Property Day on Friday. Zhan Yan / Xinhua

Radical lawmakers in Hong Kong are staging a weird chorus against the move by the government of the special administrative region to extend the protection of copyrights to the Internet.

The campaign to derail the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 has witnessed activities including online petitions, street rallies and maneuvers in the Legislative Council to filibuster the bill, as LegCo begins its second reading of the bill on Wednesday.

It is a no-brainer that Hong Kong has an urgent need to update its copyright law to keep it abreast of the rapid developments in the cyber world. The SAR has lagged behind many developed economies for over a decade in terms of copyright legislation, specifically in the protection of digital copyrights. The film, TV and music industries have laid the blame for the rampant online piracy on the government's failure to update the copyright law since 2006, claiming this has cost them billions of dollars.

By incorporating the feedback collected from stakeholders in different sectors during extensive public consultations over the past decade, the current version of the copyright amendment bill tabled by the SAR government strikes a fair balance between the legitimate interests of copyright owners, users and the general public.

Specifically, the bill-formulated on a "fair dealing" doctrine-provides for the unlicensed use of copyrighted works for purposes such as parody, satire, pastiche, caricature, criticism, commenting, review, quotation, education, research and news reporting. The provision of such a wide range of exemptions is guarantee of Hong Kong people's freedom of expression and freedom of creation, as well as academic freedom, while reasonably protecting the interests of copyright owners.

The adoption of the "fair dealing" doctrine in formulating the copyright amendment bill is in line with the practice of many common law jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The draft bill in its current form has received wide acceptance from the cultural and creative sector, as well as broad support among the community. Its eventual passage in the legislature is beyond doubt.

By politicizing the enactment of the copyright amendment bill, some members of the opposition are trying to create a new political flashpoint to rally support ahead of the LegCo election next year. In this sense, the copyright amendment bill is just a casual victim of their politics.