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H.K. gov't proposes tightening copyright protection.

HONG KONG, March 16 Kyodo

Copying published articles or leasing comic books or movies without permission will be forbidden once a copyright protection bill is passed, Hong Kong's Commerce, Industry and Technology Secretary Joseph Wong said Thursday.

The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2006, to be gazetted Friday, will include near 20 recommendations in a bid to curb copyright infringement while balancing the interests of copyright owners and the public, Wong told a press conference.

''The amendments will definitely lead to controversies. But the government is responsible to uphold Hong Kong's international status of copyright protection, while facilitating technology advancement and benefiting end-users,'' he said.

The proposed bill will be tabled in the Legislative Council on March 29.

The recommendations also include maintaining an existing prohibition of copyright infringement of four products: computer programs, movies,

television shows and music products.

The Hong Kong branch of the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said illegal downloading of music files from the Internet has cost the industry billions of dollars.

The bill will also criminalize duplication or distribution of newspapers, magazines, periodicals and books with exemption given to nonprofit organizations and government-subsidized schools.

Shops that lease comic books or movies would be subjected to civil liability.

On the other hand, sales of parallel imports would be allowed within nine months of the copyrighted goods' local release, instead of the current 18 months, so that the public can buy cheaper legal products sooner.

But the bill does not cover the more controversial issue of copyright infringement on the Internet. Wong said his bureau will issue a consultation paper later this year on that.

A 38-year-old Hong Kong man was sentenced to three months in jail in November last year for using the BitTorrent file-sharing software to share movies with other Internet users. It was the first such conviction in the world, according to the Customs and Excise Department.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Mar 20, 2006
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