A senior official apologised yesterday for a law that criminalises unauthorised photocopying of newspapers. Secretary for Commerce and Industry Chau Tak-hay also took the unusual step of trying to suspend the relevant provisions indefinitely. 'The Government regrets the worries and inconvenience caused and accepts the responsibility to explore ways to resolve the problems,' he said at a special Legco meeting on the law, attended by 15 commerce groups and professional bodies. 'As Secretary for Commerce and Industry, I also express my apology to the public.' The law has attracted a mountain of criticism from the business and educational sectors since it was introduced less than a fortnight ago. Many complain it has disrupted the free flow of information in workplaces and classrooms. Lawmakers commended Mr Chau's readiness to admit mistakes and his swift move to propose suspending implementation of the provisions, which outlaws unauthorised photocopying of newspapers, magazines, periodicals and books. But C. K. Lau, Newspaper Society spokesman and assistant managing editor of the South China Morning Post, expressed reservations about the proposal: 'The criminal provision is necessary . . . A lot of investment has been injected by newspapers into manpower and financial resources. When their information is photocopied, newspapers should be entitled to have reasonable protection of their receipts in royalties.' Mr Chau plans to table a simple amendment bill with the aim of suspending the implementation of the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2000 - which aims to stop bootleg videotaping in cinemas - at the next Legco sitting on April 25. In a rare move, he will seek the consent of the legislature for the amendment bill to go through three readings in one sitting under a special procedure. But the suspension would not apply to the downloading of computer programmes, music or films from the Internet. Mr Chau said he would seek the views of non-governmental organisations, the copyright industries and various sectors of the community to work out a long-term solution. After the meeting, Mr Chau said: 'There was an element of underestimation of the complexity of the issues involved and the difficulties of compliance.' But he denied the administration had tabled the bill for passage in a perfunctory manner last year.