The government may legislate to regulate internet service providers if voluntary guidelines cannot be drawn up later this year. A proposal, aiming to offer greater protection for copyrighted works, has been floated to establish a three-way forum, to be held in the second quarter, comprising representatives of ISPs, copyright owners and users to draft a code of practice regulating service providers in a bid to combat internet piracy. Secretary for Commerce and Development Frederick Ma Si-hang said the government would facilitate the discussion in a bid to establish the widest consensus. 'We have to balance the competing interests of the sustainable development of creative industries, protection of privacy and the development of Hong Kong as an internet service hub,' he said at a Legislative Council panel meeting yesterday. But Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Yvonne Choi Ying-pik said laws governing ISPs might still be formulated if the various parties failed to agree on a code of practice. 'We will consider other measures, such as legislation or the subpoena system in the United States, if the discussion does not come up with a conclusion,' she said. Meanwhile, according to the government, the use of streaming technology to initiate unauthorised distribution of copyrighted content will be made illegal. 'Streaming is a prevailing form of copyright infringement while its extent ... will be determined by court ruling,' Ms Choi added. But officials admitted enforcement could be a big challenge because many host servers, to which illegal content was uploaded, could be located outside Hong Kong. Enforcement would depend on co-operation with overseas bodies and there was 'a long way ahead', deputy secretary Christopher Wong Kwok-bun said. Charles Mok, chairman of Internet Society Hong Kong Chapter, said the law should be made on a technology neutral basis as the legislation process would not be able to keep up with technological advances.