Hong Kong Pushes Back Copyright Debate

To the frustration of government, opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong Friday managed to push back discussion of the proposed Copyright (Amendment) 2014 bill until next year.

The territory’s Legislative Council saw the debate simply run out of time in the last full meeting of 2015. The members had been talking since Wednesday afternoon, with all of the Thursday session taken up by a motion to adjourn the proposed copyright bill.

Hong Kong’s copyright law was last updated in 2006. Government and industry believe that it needs to be brought up to date, made fit for the Internet age and, in particular, close the door to online piracy.

Opponents have suggested that the bill fails to take proper account of user generated content and is damaging to free speech. They argue that it leaves people open to prosecution when reusing copyrighted material for satire, pastiche or news commentary.

While the government insists that these issues are in fact covered, it has exposed itself to claims that the bill is shoddily drafted, with government minister Gregory So offering an immediate review of the new law as soon as it has been passed.

Opponents seized on such weakness to suggest that the government go back to the drawing board. And for two days of LegCo time they have used procedural motions, filibustering tactics and repeated quorum calls to halt progress.

“The television industry [is] facing an onslaught of digital piracy, fueled 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,” said John Medeiros, chief policy officer of the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA,) at a press meeting on Thursday evening. “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.”

“If we pause again, then it would take a few years. How many more few years do we have for Hong Kong? We must progress. Our bill is hopelessly outdated, we need to update it now,” said So, after the debate had halted.

LegCo will resume discussion of the adjournment motion on Jan. 6, 2016.

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