Face Off: Should the Copyright Amendment Bill 2014 be passed?

Face Off: Should the Copyright Amendment Bill 2014 be passed?

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week …

china_hong_kong_copyright_amendment_bill_fav03_54681895.jpg

A session of debate of the Copyright Amendment Bill at the Legislative Council.
Photo: EPA

Lucinda Kam Wing-lam, 19, University of Hong Kong

The creative industry, which includes advertising, art and culture, and multimedia, is playing an increasingly important role in Hong Kong's economy.

With the rapid progress of information technology, we need to allow talent in this field to flourish. Therefore, it is important to enhance protection against online piracy.

I support the Copyright Amendment Bill 2014 because it strikes a balance between copyright protection and freedom of expression.

Copyright owners can benefit from the bill, which protects the interests of innovators while encouraging the creation of both first-hand and derivative works. People who produce derivative works such as pictures, videos and music and share them on the internet won't be prosecuted. "Under the amended bill, more derivative works can be created since they are free from legal traps," said Ada Leung Ka-lai, Hong Kong's director of intellectual property. "We target large-scale copyright infringement, not individual users."

The bill allows copyright owners to share their works electronically. It will better reflect today's digital media environment, and help send the message that respect for intellectual property rights is crucial in a modern society.

Moreover, Western countries support the new copyright bill, so more foreigners would be willing to invest in the city's creative industry.

The bill has been proposed to help bring Hong Kong's copyright laws up to international standards. It will benefit copyright owners as well as the general public whose freedom of expression will be safeguarded. For example, Stefan Asafti, a Romanian graphic designer, created "Brandversations" by switching the logos and slogans of famous brands such as Microsoft and Apple. Under the Copyright Amendment Bill 2014, this type of creativity won't be stifled. Hong Kong's legislators must pass the bill.


Joy Pamnani, 17, PLK Ngan Po Ling College

There is a big debate about the Copyright Amendment Bill 2014, which the government believes will help fight internet piracy. Despite supporting the government in its fight against piracy, I do not believe the bill is the way to do it.

It poses a threat to freedom of expression in Hong Kong as the "boundaries" for creativity are being set by copyright owners. According to the law, before copying a piece, netizens have to credit the copyright owner and make sure they abide by the copyright law. Even so, if the copyright owner claims the exemptions do not apply to the material, civil action can be taken. In other words, copyright owners can abuse this power to control and even censor material on the internet.

The new copyright bill includes several exemptions, but they won't be enough to protect people's freedom of expression. Other than copyright issues for purposes of parody, satire, caricature, and commentary on current events, along with a few other topics, the bill does not cover derivative works such as performers who cover songs or artists who self-publish comic remixes. Believe it or not, under the proposed laws, such activities may be considered criminal offences!

There is also an air of uncertainty around the new law as people worry it may pave the way for legal traps. For example, the government has not defined how people should credit owners for copyright material. For copyrighted images, some owners may settle for a small logo or acknowledgement, while others may require much more prominent coverage. If the requirements aren't followed, owners can resort to civil action.

With freedom of speech being one of Hong Kong's core values, I believe our Copyright Amendment Bill 2014 needs a re-think at least, and most certainly, should not be passed in its current form.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should the Copyright Amendment Bill 2014 be passed?

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