Singapore proposes strengthened copyright regime
July 7, 2021
By Colin Mann
Singapore’s Ministry of Law (MinLaw) has tabled the Copyright Bill for First Reading in Parliament.
The Bill seeks to repeal and replace the current Copyright Act. It will strengthen the copyright regime in Singapore, by updating the Copyright Act to stay abreast of changes in how content is created, distributed, and used. It will also make the law more accessible by simplifying the language.
The key features of the Bill are:
- It will introduce new rights and remedies for creators, to ensure copyright continues to reward the creation of works and incentivise creativity. For example:
- A new right to be identified will require users to ensure that when materials are used in public, including when they are distributed on online, the creator or performer is acknowledged. This will help individual creators and performers build their reputation.
- Creators of photographs, portraits, engravings, sound recordings and films, whether commissioned or otherwise, will by default be the first owner of copyright unless otherwise prescribed by contract. This changes the current position, where the commissioning party owns the copyright by default. Creators will be better positioned to negotiate with the commissioning parties, and can further showcase and commercialise their works for other purposes.
- It will create new exceptions to copyright owners’ rights, known as “permitted uses” to ensure copyright works are reasonably available for the benefit of society and to support innovation. For example:
- Copyright works, if lawfully accessed (e.g., without circumventing paywalls), can be used for computational data analysis, such as sentiment analysis, text and data mining, or training machine learning, without having to seek the permission of each copyright owner. This will support research and innovation efforts.
- Teachers and students may use freely available internet materials in their educational activities, including for home-based learning, as long as they acknowledge the source. However, if they are made aware that the source is infringing, they must stop using it. This new exception is timely, since the use of online materials for educational purposes has increased substantially.
The Bill will restructure and reword the legislation in plain English, to enhance its clarity and accessibility. The Bill adopts a more intuitive, thematic structure and provides illustrations to show how provisions should be applied in particular situations. This will allow creators, users, and intermediaries to better understand how the law works to both protect and provide access to works.
If passed, MinLaw expects to be able to operationalise most of the provisions in the Bill in November 2021.