Online Piracy and the Copyright

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Background: The heated debate about the Copyright(Amendment) Bill has been sparked again since the re-amendment in 2014. Commonly known as the “Internet Article 23″, it was first introduced in 2011 in order to combat online piracy. The government claimed that it is a must to amend the law due to its obsolescence, and that it can strengthen creative industry.

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But, many fear that it might become a tool for the government to restraint the publication of creative contents on the Internet, especially re-creations that express different political stance. Various groups including Keyboard Frontline and Neo Democrats have openly expressed their discontent of its re-introduction. Thoughts: The rapid advancement of technology has brought us convenience, but also nightmares to music producers, film makers and software developers. The current anti-piracy law and copyright law indeed do not provide enough protection to producers, which contributes to the diminishment of local creative industries in recent year. The copyright system of Hong Kong is also seriously lagging behind its regional competitors (C. Lam, 2014). Undoubtedly, an amendment is a must in order to keep up with the development of various sharing platform. The only question lies in whether the rights of individual Internet user will be deprived of by this amendment. In my opinion, the 2014 bill has some clear improvements on the balance between right of speech and copyright. The new amendments introduced new areas of exception to rights. The most notable areas include parody, satire, caricature and pastiche (IPD, 2014), which are the areas that Internet users pay most attention to. In addition, the purpose of comments, quotation and materials for distance learning are also exempted(IPD, 2014). However, some major doubts from the public remain unanswered, such as the ambiguity concerning the effects of published content on sales and profit. Moreover, the proposed areas are limited in a sense that it does not suit the needs of most Internet users. Many people have expressed their concern about the legal liability of posting non-profit re-creations that are not included in the areas of exemption, including music cover and live-stream gaming. These forms of entertainments are increasingly popular on social networks like Youtube and Twitch, and they are becoming the major forms of online entertainment. It is not hard to comprehend the negative feedback from the cyber community, given that these popular non-profit making creations do not enjoy legal exemption. Suggestions: Some terminologies in the bill seem ambiguous to many people and these terms need to be defined clearly. For example, to what extent is the “economic” damage (IPD, 2014) big enough to cause a criminal offense? How about the ways to materialize the “substitution” effect (IPD, 2014)of the content? The government has failed to answer these questions since the re-introduction of the law.

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