U-turn on plan to push through copyright bill
Officials yesterday bowed to pressure from lawmakers by dropping plans to push through in one sitting a bill to suspend some criminal provisions in the new copyright law.
The about-face came after members of a special Legco commerce and industry panel meeting expressed concern that rushing through the proposed law to suspend the criminalisation of unauthorised photocopying of print media, among other measures, without closer scrutiny might bring new uncertainties.
Deputy Secretary for Commerce and Industry Kenneth Mak Ching-yu said the administration would table the bill only for first reading at next Wednesday's Legco sitting, as proposed by Democrat Sin Chung-kai.
Mr Sin suggested the administration resume the second reading debate and the third reading on May 2. Some members said they might need more time but pledged to speed up scrutiny.
Many members backed calls for the Government to delay its original schedule as the bill was not as simple as Secretary for Commerce and Industry Chau Tak-hay had claimed last Friday.
Chan Kam-lam, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said: 'What we've got is only a draft of the draft bill.'
Unveiling the bill to legislators, Mr Mak admitted the scope of the bill had been widened slightly.
The bill would suspend the criminalisation of unauthorised copying of elements of the print and broadcast media and Internet laid out in the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill, enacted on April 1.
The suspension would not apply to computer programs (in electronic form), sound recordings and films that contain a substantial part of musical work and related literary work. This includes music CDs, music videos, movies and television drama.
The public has been granted a one-month grace period on legal action by the Newspaper Society until May 1.
Although the bill is unlikely to be enacted before the grace period ends, Newspaper Society members have said they will not take legal action lightly.
Earlier at the meeting, non-affiliated lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, SC, warned of the danger of hastily passing the bill in one Legco sitting.
Non-affiliated legislator Timothy Fok Tsun-ting backed the Newspaper Society's call for a six-month limit on the suspension of criminal provisions.
Mr Chan, of the DAB, urged officials to consider including a maximum time frame of between three months and one year for the suspension in the proposed bill.
But Mr Mak said the Government did not plan to set a time limit as it had to consult widely and examine all the issues thoroughly to work out an acceptable long-term solution. 'We do not want to rush,' he said.
A Legco bills committee to scrutinise the bill is to be formed as early as today.