Talks aim to settle dispute over copyright fees for video rentals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2008, 12:00am

Government officials will meet film distributors and video-rental shop owners on Monday in a bid to settle the dispute over copyright fees.

Christopher Wong Kwok-bun, deputy secretary for commerce and economic development, told lawmakers yesterday the administration hoped a deal could be reached next week, to allow subsidiary legislation entitling distributors to seek rental-right fees to take effect on April 25.

The amendment to the Copyright Ordinance was passed last year.

Distributors want shops to pay them up to 100 per cent of a video disc's wholesale price each time they rent it out, but rental shops owners fear they will need to increase their prices drastically, which could drive away customers.

The two sides have not agreed on the copyright fee level.

Mr Wong said about two-thirds of 11 movie distributors were willing to consider the Rental Industry Alliance's proposal to gradually increase the copyright fees, although the two sides had differing views on how copyright fees would affect the rental industry.

'The biggest dispute is that one side believes consumers will be eager to pay extra on movie rentals ... while the other thinks most rental shops would be forced to shut down,' Mr Wong told the commerce and industry panel.

He hoped distributors and rental shop operators could come up with a solution on Monday.

Some distributors were also planning to ask rental shops to pay a deposit of HK$1,000 to HK$1,500 for a rental licensing scheme, Mr Wong said. Rental shops will need to pay a total deposit of HK$9,100 to the 11 distributors, but could recover this cost.

The government said the Hong Kong Comics and Animation Federation had started discussions with rental shops. It is expected that the amendment, which entitles copyright owners to seek comic rental-right fees, will take effect in July.