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CASBAA’s Medeiros backs HK Copyright Bill

Speaking at a press event on the Copyright Amendment Bill sponsored by the Hong Kong Copyright Alliance, CASBAA Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros has expressed support for immediate passage of the Bill, but without the three Committee Stage Amendments, describing them as “unacceptable”, suggesting they would create huge loopholes in copyright protection.

“Passage of the bill is important to establish the legal basis for copyright in the digital age. We live in a time when technological development has far outraced the ability of existing laws to create clean practices in the digital world – and clean practices are needed online as much as in the real world,” he said.

“For my industry – the television industry – we are facing an onslaught of digital piracy, fuelled by multinational criminal syndicates operating streaming media ‘black box’ networks and websites which intercept our signals, steal our programming, hijack our domains, defraud our advertisers and deceive our customers.”

“Currently Hong Kong law is powerless to deal with most of these activities; Hong Kong’s law enforcers agree that we desperately need a new legal framework, as well as new international enforcement practices to deal with the transnational aspects of these crimes.”

“With respect to the Committee Stage Amendments that are now before the legislature, I will just summarise the TV industry’s feeling: the amendments are unacceptable. They would create huge loopholes in copyright protection – so huge that the bill will have no value for us if the amendments are included. They would create massive uncertainty about questions like ‘what does ‘fair’ mean’ that would take decades for the courts to sort out. There are very good reasons why the legal profession is aghast at the idea the legislature could make this kind of capricious change in the law.”

“We recognise that copyright law is always a balance between the interests of users and copyright owners; today we look around us, see blatant piracy everywhere online, with no legal recourse, and think Hong Kong has lost its balance. But after this law has been passed and the new legal framework is in place, we will be happy to take up the government’s challenge, engage with other interest groups, and discuss how a more proper balance can be achieved,” he stated.

“For now, Hong Kong has been bogged down for a decade in trying to update its law; its failures are beginning to be noticed globally. This controversy over copyright amendments is being reported in media journals from Europe to California to Bombay to Singapore. I noticed a press statement earlier this week by the American Chamber of Commerce, and I want to echo one thing they said: If Hong Kong’s legal regime cannot be updated, its attractiveness for international companies – and especially international media companies, will disappear. We can’t stay ‘Asia’s World City’ if we don’t have a world-class business environment, including good copyright law,” he concluded.

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