Hong Kong copyright bill

Deadlock over copyright bill means we all lose out

The current impasse is unacceptable: As an international city, Hong Kong needs updated legislation that can benefit all stakeholders

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2016, 1:43am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2016, 1:43am

With the legislature becoming increasingly hostile, the passage of government bills and funding requests cannot be taken for granted. The latest victim is the controversial copyright amendment bill. After months of meaningless headcounts for quorum and filibustering by pan-democrat lawmakers to stall the vote, the government has finally given up on the bill for the time being.

Commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung made no bones about his anger and frustration last week. Citing the lines in a well-known Chinese martial arts novel, the minister urged everyone to hold the pan-democrats responsible. The collapse of the bill, he said, had effectively killed off a new driver of economic growth and the healthy development of creative industries in Hong Kong. But the pan-democrats retorted that So had failed to appreciate their concerns. They said the blueprint did not provide adequate protection for users of copyright materials.

The bitter exchange does nothing to resolve the deadlock. If anything, it only further undermines the trust and cooperation between the legislature and the administration. The bill seeking to bring our copyright protection in line with international standards was mooted 10 years ago. It was put aside at the last minute in 2012 amid growing concerns over its implications on freedom and creativity. The current proposals were tabled in 2014 and went through lengthy discussion. But they were rejected by the pan-democrats and some in the online community at the final stage. Technically, the bill has not lapsed yet. But the fact that it is now placed at the bottom of an outstanding backlog of bills makes passage within the current legislative term impossible. Lawmakers opposing the bill are likely to continue their tactics when it is revived. It would make more sense to better engage all stakeholders to reach a consensus lest the deadlock continues.

As an international city, Hong Kong does need an updated copyright bill. The current situation is a lose-lose scenario.