PROPOSED changes in copyright laws may have gone too far in protecting overseas copyright owners, a consumer watchdog warned yesterday. The Consumer Council said it did not oppose the planned copyright legislation, but called on the Government to ensure that copyright owners in Hong Kong enjoyed the same protection as those in other countries. Chief executive Pamela Chan Wong-shiu said yesterday: 'If the proposed law is intended to safeguard the interests of copyright owners, there should also be provision for copyright owners in Hong Kong to receive the same reciprocal benefit.' She pointed to Hong Kong's film industry, the third largest in the world. Copyright owners were entitled to rental rights on films in European countries and Taiwan, but not in the US, Canada or Australia. A provision in the Intellectual Property (World Trade Organisation Amendments) Bill 1995 gives rental rights and tighter control over distribution to the owners of copyright on films, computer programmes and sound recordings. Assistant Secretary for Trade and Industry Daniel Chan Ka-lok denied that local producers would lack protection. Film producers, he said, could already ensure royalties were paid through contractual arrangements with overseas distributors, and if there was evidence of abuse the bill offered an arbitration unit. Local video rental outlets claim they will be worst hit if rental rights are introduced by having to pay continuous royalties instead of simply buying the films outright. But the Consumer Council said if charges imposed by copyright owners or licensees were excessive, the market would snub the product. Mr Chan said: 'Films are no different than any other property. If I set the price of my flat too high no one will buy it.' Music store chain HMV warned CD buyers could pay more and have less choice under the changes. It said restrictions on the import of CDs bought from overseas rather than local distributors, known as parallel importing, would seriously damage its business. HMV Chinese Asia region managing director Philip Kung Yue-fei said the amendments would give local licensees of record companies greater rights to prevent parallel imports. 'What the new law proposes is that we as a retailer cannot import directly from overseas anymore,' he said. 'For anything we want to source, we have to source through the local record companies.'