LCQ19: Copyright infringement of news reports among media organisations
Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, to a question by the Hon Albert Chan in the Legislative Council today (June 29):
Some members of the public have recently relayed to me that disputes on copyright infringement of news reports have arisen frequently among various media organisations in recent years, and there is a trend of the problem worsening acutely, as quite a number of media organisations took legal actions against one another over copyright infringement of news reports, which caused serious economic loss to both parties, adversely affected the development of media and journalism as well as drove up the operating costs of media organisations substantially, hampering their daily operation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the authorities have tried to look into the problem of frequent disputes on copyright infringement of news reports among media organisations in recent years and offered them assistance; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) whether it knows the respective numbers of litigation cases involving copyright infringement of news reports among media organisations in each of the past three years; and
(c) whether the authorities will consider conducting an in-depth study on the aforesaid problem and formulating policies or amending the legislation to reduce litigation and disputes involving copyright infringement of news reports; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
As major content providers, media organisations in Hong Kong should act responsibly and observe the law in the dissemination of news and messages, whether through the printed platform or the Internet. To create a business environment which is fair and conducive to the sustainable development of the creative industry, Hong Kong has an established legal system for the protection of intellectual property rights, including copyright. We review on a regular basis the efficacy of the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) to ensure that it remains appropriate in present day circumstances.
With regard to parts (a) and (c) of the question, our reply is as follows.
The Copyright Ordinance grants copyright owners different exclusive rights to protect the fruits of their creation. Copyright is a private property right. Similar to remedies for other tortious acts, copyright owners have to initiate civil legal action and adduce evidence against the relevant infringers in order to safeguard their rights. If the infringement case involves criminal element, the right owner could file a complaint with the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED).
As regard civil actions, the Judiciary has implemented the Civil Justice Reform (CJR) since April 2009. The underlying objectives of the CJR are to, amongst others, increase the cost-effectiveness of the procedures in relation to civil proceedings, ensure that a civil case is dealt with as expeditiously as is reasonably practicable, and facilitate the settlement of disputes. The CJR promotes the use of mediation by which parties to the litigation may voluntarily negotiate with each other with a view to resolving their disputes. Compared with litigation, resolving disputes through mediation could effectively save the parties' time and costs.
Nowadays, competition in the media market is keen. When reporting the same news, disputes about copyright issues involving similar content or expression may arise between media organisations. To help media and front-line journalists better understand their basic rights and duties as well as how to properly deal with others' intellectual property, the Intellectual Property Department (IPD) has published a booklet entitled "Copyright for Journalists in Hong Kong" (Note), which explains, among others, that:
(i) Copyright protects the expression of ideas and their related end products (tangible), but not the underlying ideas themselves (intangible).
(ii) The Copyright Ordinance not only protects fruits of creation, but also allows reasonable use of copyright works. Hence, different permitted acts are prescribed under the Ordinance, including fair dealing of copyright works for the purposes of criticism, review and news reporting (section 39 of the Ordinance).
IPD will continue to conduct publicity and public education activities through different channels in the coming year, including organising talks and seminars, to strengthen the media and the community's understanding and respect for intellectual property.
With regard to part (b) of the question, our reply is as follows.
The Administration does not have statistics on the number of litigations which involve copyright infringement of news reports among media organisations. In the past three years, C&ED received four complaints against media organisations in respect of alleged copyright infringement acts while IPD did not receive any relevant complaints.
Note: Copy of the booklet could be found at www.ipd.gov.hk/eng/pub_press/publications/journaliste.pdf
Wednesday, June 29, 2011