The Quest for a User-Friendly Copyright Regime in Hong Kong
81 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2016 Last revised: 14 Sep 2017
Date Written: July 3, 2016
The quest for a user-friendly copyright regime began a decade ago when the Hong Kong government launched a public consultation on "Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment" in December 2006. Although this consultation initially sought to address Internet-related challenges, such as those caused by peer-to-peer file-sharing technology, the reform effort quickly evolved into a more comprehensive digital upgrade of the Hong Kong copyright regime.
A decade later, however, Hong Kong still has not yet amended its Copyright Ordinance. Thus far, three consultation exercises have been launched in December 2006, April 2008 and July 2013. Two bills have also been introduced in June 2011 and June 2014. Because the latest bill lapsed at the end of the fifth term of the Legislative Council, which expired in July 2016, the Hong Kong government will have to submit a new bill to the legislature after the September 2016 elections to restart the upgrading effort.
In the run-up to this third (and hopefully successful) bill, it will be timely to retrospectively examine the developments surrounding the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, including some of the committee stage amendments moved by legislators. Written for a symposium on "International and Comparative User Rights in the Digital Economy," this article recounts the origin and evolution of the Bill.
The article also examines three proposals that the author either developed or was heavily involved in defending, in my capacity as a pro bono advisor to Internet user groups — and, by extension, some pan-Democrat legislators. The first proposal concerned an exception for predominantly noncommercial user-generated content. The second proposal involved the addition of an open-ended, catch-all fair use provision to the new and existing fair dealing provisions. The final proposal called for the creation of a moratorium on lawsuits against individual Internet users based on noncommercial copyright infringement.
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