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Hong Kong copyright bill

Failure to pass copyright bill would damage Hong Kong’s creative industries, argue rights owners

Commerce minister will pull bill from Legco consideration if it isn’t passed by Friday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 February, 2016, 10:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 February, 2016, 2:04am

Copyright industry associations have warned that failing to pass the controversial copyright bill by next Friday will severely damage local creative industries, leaving professionals incapable of sustaining their careers and eroding Hong Kong’s cultural assets.

But a musician who opposes the copyright bill argued that such insistence on passing the law was just the associations defending their turf, refusing to adapt to the digital age with new business models.

The government pledged not to bring the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 back to the discussion table during its term if the bill is not passed by next Friday. It said there was no political agenda behind the decision.

The bill, dubbed “Internet Article 23”, is set to be scrutinised by Legco on March 2, in a meeting lasting three days.

Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung said on Friday that the government would table a motion on March 4 to adjourn the debate if the bill was not approved by then. He admitted the government could bring the bill back to the table any time, as long as it gave Legco five days’ notice.

“If the bill is adjourned, I do not see the chance of bringing back the bill to the Legco in this section, as well as in this term of the government,” said So.

READ MORE: Hong Kong government’s shelving of controversial copyright bill: what went wrong?

Members of Copyright Alliance, which represents copyright owners and investors, said the loss will not be theirs but Hong Kong’s if the bill has to be shelved after 10 years of debate and consultation.

They said the exemptions stated in the bill were much more generous compared to other jurisdictions and it was impossible to include fair use in the bill.

Ricky Fung, CEO of International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Hong Kong Group), said the city’s recording industry market has tumbled from its peak of HK$2.5 billion per year in the 80s to HK$300 million, blaming rampant online piracy via downloading and streaming.

But as the current law does not cover streaming, copyright owners can not recover losses, he said.

“The recording industry also drives other businesses like concerts, karaoke and advertising. It is an industry of high cultural value besides economic benefits,” he said.

“No investors will want to invest in future. This will affect the whole ecosystem of our industry.”

Sam Ho, managing director of Hong Kong International Screen Association, said failing to upgrade the copyright law will make the city lose its competitive edge.

“Who will want to create original works in future? Without original works, people cannot create derivative works,” Ho said. “Hong Kong’s cultural assets will vanish in a decade or two.”

But musician Adrian Chow argued the decline in creative industries was not the law’s fault. He said: “We are living in a transition period where consumption of content has entered a digital age. People are still consuming music, but they are consuming Korean pop instead of Canto-pop.”

He said as creators and audience can interact directly on digital platforms, the role for middlemen like copyright owners and associations was diminishing.

“To them they must defend the law to preserve their role in the food chain. But the ecosystem has changed. Just look at Netflix and Spotify. They should revamp the business model instead of wasting time on the law.”