Intellectual property rights piracy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2002, 12:00am

Your correspondent Anthony Brooker's umbrage with i-Cable and regional broadcasters (South China Morning Post, October 26) displays a misunderstanding of the abuse of intellectual property rights being addressed in the civil action announced last month by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA).

The television channels supplied by pay-TV services like UBC rarely own the intellectual property rights to the programmes that they broadcast. A movie channel will acquire limited broadcasting rights from independent film distributors. A sports channel will acquire such rights for sports events from the event organisers. When channel operators acquire broadcast rights, those rights are limited specifically to the territories in which their channels are legitimately distributed. To acquire additional territory rights costs more money. All channel operators broadcasting as part of the UBC platform (to which Mr Brooker has a subscription) ensure that their programme rights have been cleared for viewers in Thailand only, not Hong Kong.

UBC will only sell subscriptions to viewers in Thailand. Unscrupulous agents provide UBC with bogus Thai addresses to activate the subscriptions that are then sold on to Hong Kong residents. Contact UBC and provide correct information pertaining to the location of your 'authorised' set-top box in Hong Kong and your service will be suspended immediately.

These SAR residents may pay their subscriptions. Certainly, the intermediaries such as the agent, UBC and the channel operators get paid. Unfortunately, the programme rights owners do not.

The sale of UBC subscriptions to Hong Kong residents is intellectual property rights piracy. CASBAA and the regional broadcasters are acting properly and responsibly in drawing our attention to this abuse and providing some protection for the programme rights owners.

Limited pay-TV choice in our 'world city' is a legacy of the government's decision to grant a monopoly pay-TV licence to i-Cable.

Recent efforts to liberalise the sector and introduce more consumer choice in Hong Kong have, thus far, failed. Piracy is not the answer.