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Thursday, February 25, 2016, 17:23

Govt confirms last chance for copyright bill

By Kahon Chan / chinadailyasia.com
Govt confirms last chance for copyright bill
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung meets the media and talks about the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 at Central Government Offices on Feb 25, 2016. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

HOGN KONG - The government is set to give up its second bid to update the legal protection of intellectual properties for the digital age — leaving the copyright industry up in arms and opposition legislators feeling the political heat.

The Copyright Alliance issued a statement saying they were stunned after Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung announced on Thursday that the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 would be set aside if the Legislative Council cannot vote on it next Wednesday.

The LegCo meeting will resume next week in a “full committee” session to scrutinize the amendments. The government cannot directly remove the bill, but may reassign the order of items on the agenda. Lawmakers may also initiate a motion at any time to adjourn the debate.

A government spokesperson later confirmed the decision was made after the LegCo meeting abruptly ended on Wednesday. This was due to a headcount mishap triggered by the opposition camp’s call for a quorum. Gregory So condemned opposition lawmakers for stalling the progress for personal gains.

Opposition members in LegCo have been engaging in filibustering as opposition to the copyright bill intensified among Internet users in late November. The bill reading has regularly attracted protests outside LegCo.

Ex-legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah slammed his former opposition allies for exposing themselves to manipulation by netizen groups.

Wong Kwok-kin of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions thinks his opposition counterparts chose the wrong side when the copyright battle erupted last fall.

"They wanted to please radical netizens, fearing a smear campaign will jeopardize their image and cost them election votes,” he said. But campaigning ahead of this Sunday’s by-election showed their efforts had not paid off. Mainstream opposition still fell victim to attacks by the radicals.

Peter K. Yu, co-director at US-based Texas A&M University’s Center for Law and Intellectual Property, told China Daily he understood the government was working on a new proposal on limited fair use. He was surprised industry stakeholders would rather lose the bill than consider a concession.

"(Perhaps) if they do not get the new benefits — for example, provisions that would allow them to collect more royalties from Internet intermediaries — the bill is not worth it after all,” the adviser to netizen groups wrote in an e-mail reply. The industry’s attitude also reminded him of the approach it takes to negotiating with authors and musicians.

The new proposal was discussed at a talk held last week. Both Wong and New People Party’s Michael Tien Puk-sun lamented that the dialogue happened too late for an outcome. Tien said the matter was too politicized at the moment and that it was impossible for either side to shake off their prejudices.

Tien hoped all sides would resume talks immediately. Yu advised that the negotiation should focus on solutions to separate individual users from third-party Internet intermediaries — or new attempts to impose better control over set-top boxes will fail again.

kahon@chinadailyhk.com
 
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