Internet users may face criminal prosecution for sharing copyrighted material on the Web if proposed amendments to the Copyright Ordinance become law, industry representatives say.
The Internet Professional Association called for a balance between protecting intellectual property rights and the ability of internet users to share copyrighted material to some extent.
A paper submitted to the Legislative Council in November said the government would 'consider bringing in appropriate exceptions to facilitate the reasonable use of copyrighted works'.
However, the vice-chairman of the association's policy committee, Paul Fung Tak-chung, said the criminalisation of online copyright infringement was taking it a step too far, especially if such violations were not clearly defined.
Association vice-president Dr Eric Cheng Kam-chung said people often posted links to videos or pictures or cited parts of an article on discussion forums to exchange ideas or express their opinions, without the intention of making a profit.
Without a clear definition, these people may fall into the trap of committing an offence, Cheng said.
'Is the reposting of a 10-second segment of a video on a forum enough to constitute infringement?' said Joe Lam Cho-shum, chief executive of Alive Media & Communications, which operates a large internet discussion forum.
Lam said his company monitored and removed illegal content.
'Although owners of copyrighted materials such as movies, television episodes and music can be easily identified, a grey area exists when it comes to copyright on text and graphics,' Cheng said.
Cheng proposed the adoption of a creative common licensing system, which gave credit to the original creator of material but also allowed others to edit some part of the content flexibly.