Hong Kong copyright bill

Political parodies and internet mash-ups may be exempted from copyright law

Altered pictures may escape censure amid concern about freedom of expression

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 3:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

Political parodies and "mash-ups" made from combinations of other works could be granted exemption under the latest government-proposed revisions to the controversial copyright law.

Officials say special treatment for the so-called "secondary creations" could be considered as long as they were not for profit or did not involve substantial copying of the original work.

The latest proposals follow a four-month public consultation which ended in November last year.

The consultation was held to address internet users' concerns that the Copyright Ordinance could threaten freedom of expression.

Parodies, mash-ups and altered pictures are increasingly popular on social media.

Supporters argue the techniques use copyrighted work to convey new messages.

But individual pieces would still have to pass scrutiny before being exempted from the law.

"If it is without any parody, critique, comic or imitative effects, nor is it related to any current events, it may be more akin to a mere expression of feelings or showing of talent, which can hardly provide sufficient public policy grounds to justify special treatment," the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau says in a paper distributed to legislators.

A government spokesman said exemptions could not be granted to all types of secondary creations. "We still have to safeguard against unreasonable prejudice of the legitimate interests of the copyright owner."

The Legislative Council's commerce and industry panel is expected to discuss the proposals at a meeting on Tuesday.

Panel member Sin Chung-kai said he was satisfied the proposed revisions could balance copyright protection and freedom of expression.

"I see that it can address a large part of the concerns raised by internet users," said Sin, of the Democratic Party.

"We have to appreciate that it is not possible to have a law that favours only the internet users and ignores the rights of copyright owners."

The government was forced in 2012 to abandon its copyright (amendment) bill amid widespread public concerns that it would gag freedom of expression and creativity.