Copyright owners get right to civil redress
Rules tightened on renting of films, comics, but eased on parallel imports
Copyright owners of films and comic books will be able to seek compensation for loss of revenue from unauthorised rental outlets after planned changes to the Copyright Ordinance.
Legislative amendments to the ordinance will be gazetted today and tabled in the Legislative Council on March 29, the government said yesterday.
Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping said the introduction of rental rights for films and comic books will allow copyright owners to obtain civil remedies against unauthorised rentals.
The Copyright Tribunal's jurisdiction will be expanded to cover licences or licensing schemes regarding renting of copies of films and comic books.
But the new rights would not apply to those who have acquired stocks for rental prior to implementation of the amendment.
The bill proposes that company directors or partners responsible for internal management would be criminally liable for copyright infringement committed by their companies. Defence provisions would be offered to employees who are not in a position to make or influence a decision on such action.
Other major changes include halving the period - to nine months since public release - in which parallel imports for commercial purposes may attract criminal liability; and making frequent significant and distribution of infringing copies of printed works a criminal offence. Non-profit making or government-subvented educational establishments would be exempt.
The public will not be held criminally liable if they remove technological measures designed to prevent access to parallel import copies or the recording of a broadcast or cable programme.
Mr Wong said the government has been facing a tough balancing act on the issue.
'Copyright has always been controversial. Copyright owners demand stronger protection through the introduction of new civil and criminal sanctions. On the other hand, the public and business users are wary of criminal sanctions ... for fear that they would hinder dissemination of information and their legitimate use of copyright works,' he said.
Mr Wong also said the government would prepare a consultation paper on copyright protection on the internet later this year.
Hong Kong Copyright Licensing Association said it was disappointed with the government's decision to stick to its previously proposed safe harbour perimeters of 1,000 copies for printed works.
'Once the bill is presented to Legco, we will provide data to indicate that the '11,000 copies' limit greatly exceeds the daily operational needs of any normal business organisations and shows signs of favouritism towards big enterprises,' an association spokesman said.