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CASBAA urges HK copyright reform

Asia-Pacific media trade association CASBAA has renewed its appeal to Hong Kong’s legislature to pass proposed amendments to the Copyright Ordinance when they come up for debate later this week. According to CASBAA, the amendments are critical to the future of the content industries in the SAR; bringing digital copyright principles to Hong Kong for the first time. “Hong Kong’s IP law is in dire need of updating,” said Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros, “in order to take account of legal and illegal digital distribution of copyrighted materials, including entire online packages of pirated pay-TV programming.”

Provisions to bring the digital world under reasonable and balanced copyright law have been debated for almost a decade in Hong Kong. (The SAR does not now have laws to implement its latest WIPO treaty commitments.) “While the laws are delayed, online piracy has flourished,” said Medeiros. “The lack of good laws in Hong Kong is causing huge damage to the creative industry. It is not theoretical; real jobs are being lost.”

The legislature will consider a series of more than 900 amendments to weaken the bill, and CASBAA notes that what it describes as the ‘netizen’ lobby is pushing for the bill’s defeat if its wishes aren’t met. For its part, CASBAA does not think the bill provides strong enough protection for copyrighted broadcasts, but on balance, CASBAA prefers the bill be passed now, so that other issues – including the netizens’ proposed new exceptions as well as additional enforcement authority against commercial-scale piracy syndicates – can be considered in detailed consultations next year.

The bill has been dubbed an ‘Internet Article 23’ by its detractors, confusing the public with the state security legislation in Hong Kong that was proposed, and then withdrawn, in 2003. “This nickname has become a distraction to the deliberation of the real issues in the bill,” Medeiros said. “Good copyright laws exist in all of the world’s leading democracies, and there is no contradiction between protecting creation of quality video programming, and basic civil rights.”

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