Under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance as amended by the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2000 with effect from 1 April 2001, it is a criminal offence to use an unauthorized copyright work, such as a newspaper article, for purpose of, in the course of, or in connection with any trade or business or to possess the same with a view to committing an act of infringement. The maximum penalty is 4 years imprisonment and a fine of HK$ 50,000 per infringing copy.
The above 1 April amendment to the Copyright Ordinance has attracted a flurry of criticisms from the small to medium businesses, the education establishments and the general public since about 1 month prior to its introduction up to present. There were talks by Legislative Council members bringing a private bill to amend or suspend the 1 April amendment.
Finally the Government bowed to the public pressure and announced on 12 April that it will table an amendment bill on 25 April (to be passed in one seating) to suspend part of the 1 April amendment. According to the speech of the Secretary of Commerce and Industry Mr. Chau Tak Hay at the Legislative Council on 12 April, those sections to be suspended are "criminal provisions as they affect works in the printing media, including newspapers, magazines, periodicals and books, as well as broadcasts and cable programmes, and the downloading of information from the Internet. But the suspension will not apply to the downloading of computer programmes, music or films from the Internet. Provisions in the [1 April amendment ] as they affect computer programmes, music and films will remain in force."
While some may argue that the proposed suspension of part of the 1 April amendment will seriously undermine the Government’s efforts to stamp out use of unauthorized computer programmes in offices, the impact cannot be determined until after 25 April 2001. Meanwhile, comfort may be drawn from the fact that there were wide spread discussions of copyright issues in unprecedented extent and latitudes before and after the 1 April amendment. The objective of increasing public awareness and respect of copyright ownership has been achieved.
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