Deal lays down guidelines in teachers' copyright battle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2002, 12:00am

Guidelines to help teachers photocopy educational material without breaching copyright laws were announced yesterday, the result of a compromise between schools and textbook publishers.

But fears were raised that they will pose practical problems for teachers, while the publishing industry complained that they allow too much scope for copying. The guidelines, issued by Director of Intellectual Property Stephen Selby, allow teachers at non-profit educational establishments to photocopy up to five per cent of a textbook for one course per school year.

Multiple copies of the same work may only be used for one course and there should not be more than 27 instances of copying per course per year. The guidelines also set out limits for photocopying academic periodicals, music and artistic works, but not newspapers or magazines.

They were drawn up by a working group chaired by Mr Selby with representatives from the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau, Education Department, local and international publishers, local newspapers and users in schools and universities.

The Copyright Ordinance was partially suspended last year following a public outcry over provisions criminalising the photocopying of newspapers and other printed materials.

Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council chairman Stephen Hui Chin-yim, who endorsed the guidelines, said while they helped clarify the law for teachers they could cause some difficulty. 'They propose that copying should be 'spontaneous' and spontaneity is defined as within three working days after the decision is made, but this is impractical for teachers, particularly when we are asking them to do more group preparation work,' Mr Hui said.

Teachers are expected to seek permission from the copyright owner or licensing body if more than three days elapse between the decision to use the work and actual classroom use.

Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association chairman Rodney Chui Fong-ching said there had been complaints that the five per cent threshold was too high given the small pool of about 40 local publishers.

Mr Selby said while neither side was fully satisfied, both had come to a compromise. The guidelines do not apply to material taken off the Internet and while they have no legal force, solicitor Andy Lau Chun-on said they would be instrumental in any civil case resulting from infringement of the guidelines.

They are posted on the Web sites of the Curriculum Development Institute of the Education Department at and the Intellectual Property Department at