Oh what tangled webs we weave When we dictate what you receive LET'S HANG THIS piece of amended verse up on the office door of Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai, who heads the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau. She may need it soon when dealing with one of the big complaints to come her way. A submission made to her office in May by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia has finally been made public ahead of the association's annual convention next month and it appeals to her for help in fighting piracy in cable and satellite television. The association estimates that there are about 100,000 'pirate' viewers in Hong Kong and complains that these people are stealing television signals and thus millions of dollars out of the pockets of association members. You can understand why they are annoyed. They have gone to considerable expense to establish their networks on the understanding that they would recoup their money through viewer fees and now a growing number of their viewers have managed to cheat them by installing decoder boxes that circumvent their coding restrictions. Let us think about this a little further, however, before resolving that the Government should take action against these pirate viewers and fine the ones it catches or even send them to prison. In the first place you can argue that satellite broadcasters in particular have already put their offerings in the public domain by bathing the world in their signals. If you scatter your goodies at random like this what call do you have to say some people may take them and some may not? We may devise laws that say they may not but we all sit a little uncomfortably with such laws. Of more importance, however, is the question of whether this form of piracy is not purely a private matter. If you connect a cable to someone's home and that person then plugs the cable into his pirate decoder is it not up to you to yank the cable out if you object? Why should this be the Government's responsibility? Of course there are problems in doing it. You cannot enter that person's home without his permission to see if he has an illegal decoder, even assuming that you can permanently pull his connection alone and no others and you would in any case need an army of enforcers to have a real impact on unauthorised viewing. But it would be almost as difficult for government to do this. Let's face it, the reason the association wants the Government to do it is that its members would not then have the expense and bother of doing it themselves. What these difficulties really tell you, however, is that the technology of selective pay viewing is still a crude one and does not really work yet. There was an unforeseen problem, one that the association's members could have foreseen, particularly in this town, but either did not or ignored in the blithe assumption that their licences also guaranteed them full government protection from unauthorised viewing. Did those licences guarantee it? Let's see the hard wording of these guarantees. It may be unfortunate that the industry took this technology further than it would yet go but then it is up the industry to fix things with pirate proof decoder boxes. Why should it be the taxpayers' responsibility that the industry adopted faulty technology? Leave alone that industry should be told to enforce its own copyright privileges, the Government will only involve itself in an enforcement nightmare if it tries to stop such a widespread practice as unauthorised viewing. Let the industry look after itself here. Don't get involved, Mrs Yau.