Consultation on law to protect parody makers

But the proposals to exempt the creators from legal liabilities get a lukewarm reaction

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 3:44am

The government has launched a public consultation on whether parody makers should be exempted from legal liabilities as long as they did not make money from their creations or damage others' economic interests.

But the government's new terms have received lukewarm reactions from critics who are concerned their creations could still put them behind bars.

The consultation, which started yesterday and will run until October 15, comes after the government shelved an amendment to the copyright law last year amid concerns it would damage freedom of expression.

Now, the government has come up with three options.

One would exempt parodies from existing criminal offences.

Another would exempt parody makers from civil and criminal liabilities as long as they met "fair dealing" requirements to be decided by court. These could include creating for purely non-profit-making purposes and could also look into the degree of similarity with the original.

The final option would clarify criminal sanction provisions to say parody makers would not be prosecuted unless their works caused "more than trivial" economic damage to copyright owners. All three options would protect parody makers only if their works were not for sale or did not impose significant economic damage on copyright owners.

For example, the League of Social Democrats - who used another party's logo to create a mocking T-shirt for sale - would not be entitled to the exemption, a government source said.

But netizens who remade an official song to celebrate the handover into one expressing grievances would be exempted from legal liabilities, provided the song was not for sale, he said.

There are other cases to be decided by the courts. The Link ended its marketing campaign to promote long-running eateries after netizens created a parody attacking it for raising rents. The court would judge whether the parody, though not for profit, had damaged the Link's economic interests, the source said.

Music producer Adrian Chow said the government might be on the right track, but that there were still uncertainties.

Blogger Kay Lam, who is known for creating parodies mocking politicians, said all three options were problematic. The court should be responsible for a fair trial, but "without a democratic legislature, topped by law enforcement departments' arbitrariness, this was exposing the public to white terror," he said.