The Newspaper Society yesterday backed a government proposal to suspend implementation of a law criminalising unauthorised photocopying of newspapers. But it said the suspension should be for a maximum of six months. The society maintained the law must allow publishers to have recourse to criminal action, saying it would help prompt organisations to face up to publishers' intellectual property rights and to arrive at agreements with newspapers on payment of royalties. But the society pledged to hold discussions with all sectors to help draw a line between 'fair dealing' and the illegal photocopying of newspapers. 'There is an international consensus to protect the holders of intellectual property. Hong Kong should not put the clock back,' the society said. Its statement comes less than a week after Secretary for Commerce and Industry Chau Tak-hay apologised at a Legislative Council meeting for the copyright law and said he would seek the indefinite suspension of the relevant provisions. In a government paper to be tabled at today's special Legco commerce and industry panel meeting, members will be told the suspension will remain in effect until a long-term solution is found. Christopher Cheng Wai-chee, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the society's backing of the proposed suspension. But he thought it was unnecessary to set a ceiling. 'I am very sure that within a reasonable period after the public consultation, an acceptable solution for everybody will be worked out,' he said. At issue are certain criminal provisions in the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2000 that outlaw unauthorised photocopying of newspapers, magazines, periodicals and books. Mr Chau is to table a simple amendment bill on Wednesday in an attempt to suspend implementation of the relevant provisions. The suspension will not apply to the downloading of computer programs, music or films from the Internet. Mr Chau will take the unusual step of seeking the legislature's consent for the amendment bill to go through three readings in just one sitting.