Owners of photocopying shops are defying amended copyright laws that ban unauthorised copies, saying they have no alternative but to continue the illegal practice. The amended Copyright Ordinance, which came into effect on Sunday, makes it a criminal offence to make copies without permission from the copyright holders. An offender can be fined $50,000 for each illegal copy and jailed for four years. But an investigation by the South China Morning Post found it was business as usual this week in many photocopying shops in Sai Wan Ho, Shekkipmei and Cheung Sha Wan, where copies of school textbooks and other publications were being churned out from Xerox machines. 'Yes, it's illegal. But when a customer comes over with a book and asks to make a copy, how am I going to say no? I can't afford to lose a customer,' said a Mr Chan, who has been running his shop in Cheung Sha Wan for nearly a decade. 'It's one of our main sources of income to make copies of books. I'm almost running at a loss to charge 10 cents per page. There will surely be shops closing down soon.' Another shop-owner said she might have to shut her eight-year-old shop in Shekkipmei as the new law intensified competition. 'There are so many shops nowadays. It's very difficult to run a business. 'And it's even harder if you go along with the ban,' she said, while making copies of a 200-page textbook for a regular student client. Viking Yam Wing-keung, general manager of the Hong Kong Reprographic Rights Licensing Society, said the society had taken notice of the problem and would grant an informal three-month grace period for all the 300-plus shops in the territory. 'Since April 1, we have had some angry calls from owners blaming us for not helping them cope with the new law. But we notified them beforehand,' he said. The society proposed in January that photocopying shops pay an annual licence fee of $5,000, and two cents per copy, to be entitled to the copyright of publications. But the idea fell through due to the industry's lukewarm response, Mr Yam said. 'It is unfortunate they are small businesses and do not have a union to negotiate. We hope they will form a union and talk with us,' he said.