Customs criticised for pursuit of outdated CD and VCD piracy
Amy Nip and Phila Siu
Despite a plunge in the number of factories making optical CD or VCD discs, the customs department is maintaining the fight against piracy in this declining medium, according to the Audit Commission's report.
In its latest review of the Customs and Excise Department's Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, the commission noted that surprise checks at disc manufacturers were still being conducted as part of the licensing system introduced for optical disc manufacturers in 1998.
The figures suggest that the department's inspectors are apparently failing to keep up with the shift towards pirated content available from video streaming websites or file-sharing portals.
"With the rapid advancement in the internet and other technologies, the mode and methods used in pirating literary and artistic works have changed. However, the Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau has continued to conduct around 300 spot checks on optical disc factories every year," the report said.
With such factories dropping in number from 98 to 26 over the past 13 years, the average number of spot checks per factory has quadrupled to 12, but there is no significant sign of piracy.
In contrast, video streaming and file-sharing websites are not monitored by a computer system developed by the bureau - which targets only the software BitTorrent. Customs should update the system or develop new technologies to monitor the situation, the watchdog recommended.
On the other hand, the commission criticised the inefficiency of government departments.
More than half of the outstanding probes into copyright infringement recorded in Customs' computer system had been pending for over five years. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department was not much better: it failed to clear 2,965 inquiries and complaints half a year after their target completion dates. A look at water-seepage cases, which make up the highest number of cases, shows the department left them inactive for an average of 44 months.
Another report about the Marine Department shows that 23 per cent of the 14,517 expired vessel licences were overdue for surveying. These vessels may pose a safety threat if they are in use in the waters, it says.
It also reveals a delay in completing investigations into marine accidents. Of the 34 investigations completed as of 31 May, only five reports were completed within the 30-week target completion time.