Jackie Chan

Abandon backward legislation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 July, 1997, 12:00am

It was clear to many people that the copyright ordinances which came into force last month, would have a sharp impact on local consumers, but I doubt if many realised just how quickly we would feel it.

Shortly before the laws were passed, I ordered a CD - Earthquake Weather, by Joe Strummer - from the Windsor House branch of HMV.

It's a pretty obscure title, and not surprisingly, is unavailable locally. In the past, HMV would have simply shipped it over from one of its UK branches within a couple of weeks. The Hong Kong store would have got its sale, I would have got my music and everyone would be happy.

When I called HMV to inquire about the progress of my order, I was informed that under the new legislation, if HMV imports the CD, it would be breaking the law. As the CD never was and never will be a major seller along the lines of Wet Wet Wet or Michael Jackson, the official distributors in Hong Kong are unlikely to import it.

Whose interests are being served by this restrictive new legislation? Certainly not mine, nor those of local retailers.

If I want to buy this CD now, my only option will be to order it over the Internet, or travel to a more liberal economy, such as Singapore, where parallel imports are positively encouraged. Either way, the Hong Kong economy loses my custom.

While the law was still under discussion, a number of local celebrities, Jackie Chan most vocal amongst them, regularly complained that parallel imports were damaging their music and video sales. These claims were obvious nonsense. However restricted my choice of music may be, nothing could compel me to buy one of Jackie Chan's poor pop efforts. Instead, I will simply buy less music.

On the other hand, despite the past availability of foreign parallel imported videos, I have always enjoyed watching Mr Chan's movies and will continue to do so. Unless, of course, the local distribution cartels force up prices as they no doubt will.

The Provisional Legislature is currently revising a number of laws passed in the final days of our previous legislature. Perhaps it could add the copyright ordinances to its list of bills for reconsideration? No industry thrives on protectionism, jobs are not won by restricting the retail trade and backward, reactionary laws like this are not passed in the interests of Hong Kong consumers.

NEIL TAYLOR Causeway Bay