The Hong Kong government's consultation document on Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment seeks to help entertainment and software businesses defend against digital piracy. But it has raised a number of concerns about whether the proposed legal changes might harm consumer interests, put a damper on innovation, and potentially have negative implications for freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
Tomorrow (5pm Thursday local time) we will be examining these issues here at Hong Kong University. Peter Yu, an intellectual property and communications law expert now based in Michigan, will give a lecture asking questions such as: "Do we need online copyright reforms? Can the reforms effectively target the digital piracy problem? Would the new laws create unintended consequences? Are there other alternatives besides copyright law revision?"
Charles Mok of the Hong Kong Internet Society will also be there to comment. Charles recently wrote an article expressing concerns about the proposed legal changes. He believes that the interests of consumers and service providers have not been adequately taken into account:
Although the consultation paper in Hong Kong also admits that "we also have to take into account possible concerns in the community about the impact that stronger copyright protection in the digital environment may have on the free dissemination of information and protection of personal privacy," the issues raised in the paper are all about strengthening enforcement, with nothing about how consumer rights can be enhanced, or how innovation can be encouraged with these measures beyond a simple-minded assumption.
Charles also spoke at a recent event titled "Copyright = Creativity" organized by Hong Kong InMedia and the Open Knowledge Project. (I blogged it here.) I am embedding the video of the entire event shot by one of my hard-working students at the bottom of this post. The meeting was conducted in Mandarin and Cantonese...if somebody out there wants to subtitle the video via DotSub (or any other way), then re-post it to the web, that would be a tremendous service to the community!
Here is InMedia's position on the consultation paper:
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.
For those of you who know Mandarin and Cantonese, you can watch Part 1 here:
...and Part II here: