HK government has published a consultation paper to seek public opinion on how best to tackle intellectual property rights (IPR) violations on the Internet.
In a gist, the government is studying if it's necessary to make unauthorized uploading and downloading of copyright works through P2P technology a crime.
The consultation period ends on April 30, 2007. Interested parties can send their views to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.citb.gov.hk/cib.
The consultation paper suggests Internet service providers (ISPs) maintain records of the users to help copyright owners identify IPR violators.
Among the other suggestions are: a system to efficiently track down infringing materials on the Net or blocking the access to such materials and awarding statutory damages for copyright infringements.
Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong, who announced the publication of the paper yesterday, said the government was launching the next phase review of the copyright law to meet the challenges of the digital era.
"As we know this is a very complicated, controversial issue, we hope the industry and members of the public will fully weigh the pros and cons of our proposal.
"For this reason, we not only list out in the consultation paper problems we envisage, but also practices in overseas societies that face the same problems," he told a press conference.
"We totally understand the need to strike a perfect balance between the interest of copyright owners and the privacy and benefits of the users.
"As an international trading hub in the region, sound protection of the IPR is one of Hong Kong's most important assets and advantages," Wong said. The government has an open mind on enacting a legislating on the basis of the proposals.
Information technology constituency legislator Sin Chung-kai welcomed the consultation paper as a whole, but said the proposal was rather controversial because it increased the Internet service providers' burden.
"Also, it looks that the proposal is inconsistent with the Telecommunication Ordinance," he said. "That's because under the existing law, the ISPs serve as a channel only, and hence, it's doubtful if they could maintain or inspect the records of their customers."
Internet Society Hong Kong chairman Charles Mok felt the proposal would increase the cost of the ISPs.
"Technically, it's hard to distinguish what infringement is and what is not," he said. "In fact, the government can rely on existing laws as it did in the recent prosecution in an IPR infringement case in which BT technology had been used.
"Again, privacy of the users is at risk. Although the large majority of users are law-abiding people", they would be under constant surveillance.
(China Daily HK edition December 20, 2006)