The copyright amendment ordinance has been dubbed the 'Article 23 of the cyberworld' after national security legislation, withdrawn following massive protests in 2003. The bill aims to criminalise all copyright infringement, rather than just infringements for profit or which lead to significant damage. SCMP, May 3 That's not quite the way I read the bill. What it actually says is something like this: 'We keep trying to plug the holes but every time we find some new communications technology we hadn't heard of before. Let's just make copyright infringement illegal no matter how it's done.' There are a few other tweaks and twists in the bill but the criminal sanctions are essentially the same as in the existing legislation. It's just that the new bill extends them to cover the new 'no matter how it's done' provision. In other words, this new bill is really no worse than the existing legislation. The real problem is that even the existing legislation represents a nasty repression of creativity in Hong Kong. It was written for the benefit of foreign, mostly American, copyright investors and they couldn't give a (fill in the blank) for this town although they always say they do. They also have our government by the (fill in the blank)(plural). Thousands of more important matters face our legislators, yet American lawyers and diplomats can jump the queue at any time to fine-tune our laws to their interests. Don't ever underrate the power over our bureaucrats of that squat fortress on Garden Road. The cabal has, as usual, been sneaky about it too. They keep trying and this time I never even saw them creeping up on us before springing out at our legislators from the back rooms where they work their machinations. Copyright is a balance scale. At any time the interests of originators of creative works must be set in a scale against the interests of the audience/readership of these works and of creators of similar works. Only when the two are in balance is creativity properly rewarded and freedom of expression unhindered. But in recent years this balance scale has become unbalanced in the interests of copyright holders. In the United States, in particular, the notion has caught hold that 'my idea', as registered by the first person to lay claim to it, carries the same ownership rights as 'my finger'. It was never so before. That's how we now have the 'Disney Law', which extends copyright of corporate authorship to 120 years, so that no one may yet draw Mickey Mouse unless Disney approves. One out of every two kindergartens in Hong Kong is in criminal breach of copyright, did you know? This certainly no longer serves the purpose of encouraging creativity by encouraging the author. Few authors of copyright works get any copyright benefits any longer. These rights are all signed over to big media companies. Copyright is now an investment business, that's all. When we allow foreign lawyers to dictate our copyright laws, however, we soon find ourselves not only limited in the range of creative offerings available to us but grossly overcharged for them. The movie The Iron Lady, for instance, was only made available in cinemas here after second-rate airlines had already taken it off their flight service programmes. The reason is that we have additionally inflicted 'parallel import' restrictions on ourselves in copyright. Not only must the film be the legitimate article but we can only see it when, where, how, and at what price the copyright investor determines. We are an afterthought to him. We get it last. This kind of draconian restriction not only affects audiences. It also stifles the creative expression of the entire society. With laws of this kind, whatever you do, you must first look sideways to ensure the copyright police do not collar you for an infringement of which you are probably not even aware. And why bother when ease of communication on the internet makes a mockery of copyright anyway? Almost everywhere else on this planet the copyright lawyers are in outright retreat. They cannot defeat the web. They have to accommodate themselves to it. As their grasp withers, creative expression flowers. The result is the exact opposite of what they warn. But not here. We have a city that must in the future live on its wits as it never has before and yet we have now prioritised legislation that impedes the exercise of our wits.