Copyright law change may affect privacy
The government is being urged to fill loopholes in its proposed copyright laws to prevent privacy infringement.
In its copyright amendment bill, the Intellectual Property Department seeks to exempt online service providers - including telecommunications companies and forum organisers - from infringement liabilities if they follow a code of practice.
The code requires the middlemen to alert copyright infringers and take down problematic content following calls by copyright holders. However, loopholes in the draft code could lead to a leak of internet users' personal information to so-called copyright holders, says Internet Society chairman Charles Mok.
When copyright owners find content on webpages or forum to have violated their rights, they can file a notice to online service providers, calling on them to alert the internet users involved or demanding they take down the offending content.
Internet users who are accused of infringements may counter the claim in a notice to the service providers. The counter notices, with personal information including names and addresses of the users, can be passed on to the complainants.
Such an arrangement deviates from the existing routine where the complainant needs to file a court order for the personal information.
'It could be a loophole which allows complainants to dig out details of internet users,' Mok warned.
The vice-chairman of the Internet Service Providers' Association, Lento Yip Yuk-fai, expects the number of requests for removing infringing content to increase under the proposed amendment to the law.
Yip, whose company serves 2,000 corporate customers, receives one to two such requests a day. Complainants should pay service providers to cover additional costs resulting from taking down content, he said.
Rapid shifts in the digital world have prompted the government to look into the existing law, which prosecutes copyright infringement in specific mediums. In order to keep up with changes online, it aims to make the law 'technology neutral' - meaning the law should cover infringements in any medium.
Lawmakers will discuss the amendment bill in the coming legislative year.