LCQ19: Copying and distribution offence under Copyright Ordinance

     Following is a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, to a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong in the Legislative Council today (November 10):


     The provisions of the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) concerning the copying and distribution offence came into effect on July 16 this year.  A person commits an offence if he, for the purpose of or in the course of any trade or business and on a regular or frequent basis, without the license of the copyright owner, makes for distribution or distributes an infringing copy of a copyright work in a printed form contained in a book (including a comic book), newspaper, magazine or periodical to an extent in excess of the prescribed numeric limits resulting in a financial loss to the copyright owner.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the total number of complaints received by the authorities in relation to breaches of the aforesaid new provisions since they came into effect, and of the total number of follow-up actions taken by the authorities, together with a breakdown by the category of the cases;

(b)  what publicity and promotional activities have been carried out by the authorities for the aforesaid new provisions and the resources involved; whether they will step up the publicity efforts in the coming year; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c)  whether the authorities have, in promoting the aforesaid new provisions, ascertained the major issues of concern of the related organisations; if they have, whether they will step up the publicity and education efforts accordingly?


     With regard to parts (a) to (c) of the question, our reply is as follows:

(a)  Since the new provisions came into effect in mid-July 2010, the Administration has not received any complaints involving alleged breaches of the copying and distribution offence under the Copyright Ordinance.  Hence we do not have, for the time being, any case which requires prosecution.

(b)  Some six months before the copying and distribution offence came into effect, the Intellectual Property Department (IPD) rolled out a series of publicity and educational activities (targeting in particular the relevant stakeholders, i.e. enterprises which may use, copy and distribute information extracted from newspapers, magazines, journals and books in the course of their business) with a view to enhancing public awareness of the new provisions.  These activities include large-scale seminars, business forums, advertisements in newspapers and magazines, interviews, featured articles in trade and business journals, promotional leaflet, e-newsletter and webpage, etc.

     In addition, we had revised and released for public consumption since early 2010 the Guidance Note on Prevention of End-User Piracy in Business. (Note)  Copies of the Guidance Note were made available on appropriate occasions (such as forums and seminars) for distribution to business enterprises (particularly small and medium enterprises) and non-profit making organisations.  The Guidance Note provides relevant information and practical guidelines that help users guard against inadvertent breaches of the relevant offence.  IPD has distributed about 18 000 copies of the Guidance Note so far.

     As at end October 2010, the expenditure incurred for organising the aforesaid public education activities amounted to about $900,000.

     At present, IPD conducts periodic surveys to gauge public awareness of intellectual property rights (IPR), covering members of the public as well as business enterprises.  In the light of the identified needs then prevailing, IPD will decide the focus of its upcoming publicity efforts, including the incorporation of relevant IPR issues in various promotion and public education programmes.

     With regard to the new provisions relating to the copying and distribution offence, IPD plans to include, in the survey due to be launched in mid-November, questions designed to help us understand the level of awareness amongst business enterprises.  As and when the survey results are available, IPD will consider whether there is a need to step up publicity in this regard.

(c)  When publicising the new provisions earlier this year, we did take steps to engage stakeholders from different sectors to ascertain major issues of concern to them.  We also took heed of relevant representations articulated through the Internet and the media.  It is our main observation that the concerns they have are more to do with the technical details, e.g. whether it is an offence to scan articles from newspapers or magazines and distribute copies via a company's intranet; and how the number of infringing pages is to be counted, etc.  Apart from answering these questions as and when they come to light, we have uploaded appropriate reference materials onto the Frequently Asked Questions section of IPD's webpage ( for easy reference by the public and business enterprises.  IPD has also made available a hotline (telephone no.: 2961 6901) and an email address ( for handling public enquiries.

Note: The Guidance Note is available at and may be downloaded from .

Ends/Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:07