Tam: Copyright law urgently needed to fight online piracy

Updated: 2015-12-19 07:53

By JOSEPH LI in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Hong Kong Bar Association Chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi acknowledges the need for the Legislative Council to pass the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 soon to prevent online copyright infringements - such as those caused by new streaming technology.

In her opinion, the six exemptions that the government grants, including for parody, satire and commenting on current affairs, are very broad. These provide greater protections than other jurisdictions.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Tam, who is a copyright law specialist, said all legislation always has room for improvement, but the bill should be passed as quickly as possible. She said the three amendments that the "pan-democrats" proposed were rather controversial and not widely used overseas.

She noted that the government and copyright owners have said they are willing to explore those amendments after the bill is carried.

Tam described the introduction of the three amendments at second reading stage without prior discussion by the LegCo Bills Committee as "moving the goalposts" after a lengthy consultation.

"We need to have a balance and protect the rights of the copyright owners, and should not only listen to the noisy and furious people," she said.

Providing an analogy for the situation, she said, "It is just like a kind owner of a house who allows street sleepers to sleep, eat and drink in the house. The owner also admits non-street sleepers to enter, yet they want to remove the door because it is inconvenient to them."

Tam also analyzed why the three proposals are impracticable. For the "fair use" principle that is adopted in the US, the exemptions are not specific. In Hong Kong, the exemptions are probably the widest in the world. She also warned that "fair use" might not benefit the netizens because it is up to the court to decide if there are infringements.

As for user-generated content, which is only protected in Canada, she said a user who reproduced the works of a copyright owner would cause financial losses to the owner.

And contract override, which is used in the UK, offers narrower protection than Hong Kong because the UK does not practice the "fair use" principle.

"Not a single jurisdiction is using all the three principles," she said.


 Tam: Copyright law urgently needed to fight online piracy

Winnie Tam Wan-chi, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said the Copyright (Amendment) Bill needed to be passed and updated as soon as possible to prevent copyright infringement. Roy Liu / China Daily

(HK Edition 12/19/2015 page6)