Government to introduce Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011

     The Government will introduce the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011 into the Legislative Council (Legco) on June 15. The Bill seeks to enhance protection for copyright works in the digital environment in recognition of the challenges posed by advances in information technology.

     The Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, said today (June 2) that the Government is committed to maintaining a robust copyright protection regime, which is a cornerstone for the healthy development of the creative industries.

     "The refined proposals we put to the Legislative Council in November 2009 form the basis of the bill," he said.

     "In finalising the bill, we have further engaged major stakeholders with a view to ensuring that we are striking a reasonable balance between the interests of different stakeholders.

     "In enhancing protection for copyright works, we are moving forward in a manner sensitive to the importance of maintaining the free flow of information across the Internet and safeguarding personal privacy, as well as fostering the further development of Hong Kong as a regional Internet service hub," added Mr So.

     The bill updates the copyright law such that it could better endure the test of advances in technology. It also aims at enabling co-operation between copyright owners and online service providers (OSPs) in the fight against online infringement, and at facilitating reasonable use of copyright works in the digital environment, e.g. e-learning.  

     Major 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, with ancillary criminal liability against unauthorised communication of copyright works to the public made in the course of business for profit or to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the copyright owners. The new right will facilitate copyright owners in exploiting their works in the digital environment and promote the development of digital content. Appropriate copyright exceptions will be provided to schools, libraries, archives and museums to facilitate preservation of cultural treasures and dissemination of knowledge;

(b) Establishing a statutory "safe harbour" for OSPs so that their liability for copyright infringement occurring on their service platforms could be limited, provided that the OSPs meet certain prescribed conditions, including the taking of reasonable steps to limit or stop copyright infringement when being notified. The safe harbour is underpinned by a non-statutory Code of Practice which sets out practical guidelines and procedures for OSPs to follow when notified of infringing activities on their service platform. The safe harbour will provide a level playing field for OSPs in helping combat online piracy;

(c) Introducing a copyright exception for temporary reproduction of copyright works by OSPs, which is technically required for the digital transmission process to function efficiently. This exception will cover the caching activities undertaken by OSPs, which help save bandwidth and are indispensable for efficient transmission of information on the Internet;

(d) Introducing a copyright exception for media shifting of sound recordings for private and domestic use under prescribed conditions. This exception will give greater flexibility and certainty to users and facilitate reasonable use of copyright works; and

(e)  Prescribing additional factors to assist the Court in considering the award of additional damages in civil proceedings pertaining to online infringement, in recognition of the difficulties encountered by copyright owners in proving the extent of actual loss, particularly in the digital environment.

     "The Government looks forward to working closely with Members of Legco and relevant stakeholders with a view to enacting the bill as early as possible," Mr So said.

     The Government issued a consultation document in December 2006 to seek public views on how best to strengthen copyright protection in the digital environment and subsequently released a package of preliminary proposals in 2008 for further public engagement. Taking into account the views expressed by stakeholders and the latest developments in overseas jurisdictions, the Government released a set of refined proposals in November 2009.

     The bill, which will be published in the gazette tomorrow (June 3), seeks to take forward the refined proposals drawn up after the two rounds of public consultation.

Ends/Thursday, June 2, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:01