Controversial copyright bill shelved
Stuart Lau and Danny Mok
The government has shelved a controversial bill to amend the copyright law, in what commentators say is a way to facilitate the passing of Leung Chun-ying's government revamp plan before the current legislature's term expires.
The second reading of the Copyright (Amendment) Bill - which looks to criminalise copyright infringement in online media - had already been postponed from May 9, but now it has been put off for the next administration to deal with.
As it won't be dealt with before the current Legislative Council sessions end on July 18, the whole process will have to start from scratch when lawmakers resume proceedings in September.
The unexpected move came last night, as the government suggested for the first time that parodying copyrighted items could be exempted from penalties.
'In view of the complexity of the bill itself, the government will address issues such as whether a copyright exception for parodies should be provided,' the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said in a statement.
This represents a step back from the government's previous stance of supporting the criminalisation of parodies, despite strong opposition from the public.
Sources said the copyright bill was not as pressing as others that the government wanted to pass in the next three weeks, such as the law regulating the sales of new residential properties, and changes to privacy and business laws.
Removing it from the legislative agenda not only held off a thorny issue for the incumbent government, but also made more time for discussions of Leung's restructuring plan before July 18, said Lingnan University political commentator Dr Li Pang-kwong.
Lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a member of the committee deliberating the copyright bill, said commerce bureau secretary Greg So Kam-leung had indicated his intention to drop the bill 'several weeks ago'.
'I lobbied So, saying that as long as the provisions concerning parodies are removed, it'll be fine,' Tong said, adding that So rejected the idea.
The creative sectors had earlier voiced concerns about the copyright bill's proposal to criminalise parodies, dubbing it the 'Article 23 of cyberspace', comparing it to the national security bill shelved in 2003.
Visual artist Chow Chun-fai, who had opposed the copyright amendments, said shelving the bill showed how lawmakers that were just elected in the September poll would react to public concerns.
'Actually, there is room for discussion between copyright owners and web-based parodists,' he said.