Hong Kong: Copyright=Creativity?

2007-03-13 - oiwan

The Hong Kong Government has announced the consultation paper on “Copyright protection in the Digital Environment” in early January this year. Many has pointed out that the consultation is based on the interest of corporate copyright holders rather than individuals and consumers. Worse still, some suggestions within the consultation papers are threatening to freedom of speech and expression, and eventually the development of creative industry in Hong Kong.

Even though a major trend of internet copyright is the adaptation of flexible license system, such as creative commons, which would encourage fair use and free distribution of information within the Internet. However, there is no mentioning of such practice in the whole consultation document.

In the Internet, consumers are also producers; many internet users would upload writings, photos, music and video clips onto the Internet and share with each other. Web-based forums, internet media, blogs, and etc. are significant spaces for civic participation; Moreover, teachers are using the Internet to facilitate their teaching and interacting with the students. However, the consultation has not considered such needs and has not evaluated the impact of old media copyright to this newly emerged public and creative space.

On April 1, Hong Kong In-Media, Open Knowledge Project and CU Student Union – Intellectual Property Watch would organize a symposium, Copyright = Creativity?, in response to the public consultation. Details are as followed:

Time: 2:30-4:30pm, April 1, 2007
Venue: Rm 100, School of Continuing and Professional Studies (CUHK), Bank of America Tower, Central
Speakers: Representative from Social Brain Foundation; Deng Chieh (Director of Wikimedia Society, Taiwan); Charles Mok (Chair of Internet Society-Hong Kong)
Co-host: Internet society, Hong Kong Branch; Media Law Project, Journalism and Media Studies Center, HKU

More Background about the government consultation:

Listed below are 4 major consultation areas and suggestions put forwarded by the government; the potential implications of the suggestions are in italics:

1. The criminalization of all downloading activities except from cache;

The government has already criminalized the uploading of BT seed files; last year, an individual has been convicted of copyright infringement for upload three movies’ seed files even though he did not involve in pursuing of commercial interest. The court has sentenced him for three months.

Last year, the custom office has even recruited school children to monitor P2P activities on the Internet against copyrights infringement. The government’s reaction has not only affected the development of P2P sharing technology in Hong Kong; it gives the young generation a false idea that P2P sharing is in general illegal or immoral. However, activities in the Internet are all about different forms of uploading and downloading, the further criminalizing of downloading activities will have a fatal impact on the development of the Internet.

2. The protection of copyright works transmitted to the public via all forms of communication technology, such as the transmitting of CD to MP3;

Music and image remix is part of the internet culture. For example, many netizens like to edit T.V news images and music for commenting on current social and political issues; and such cultural practice of spoofing has become a major characteristic of Hong Kong political culture. The copyright protection in transmission of files would certainly affect the development of new media creative industry.

3. Pressure to the Online Service Providers for releasing users’ information and introducing filtering technology;

The suggestions in this part would violate users’ privacy and filtering technology is a threatening censorship mechanism.

4. Statutory Damages for Copyright Infringement.

At present, copyright holders have to prove the amount or the extent of damages involved for getting compensation from a copyright infringement case. For example, the reposting of dated newspapers articles, even though has infringed the newspapers’ copyright, would not be sued because the damage is very little. Many discussion forums like to repost newspapers articles for discussion. If the “statutory damages” system is introduced, these internet forums will not be able to survive through.

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