Pay-TV group urges Hong Kong to ‘end decade of delay’ and pass bill to curb content piracy


Slaughter: Bill not threat to free expression

CASBAA, the industry body for the region’s pay-TV industry, has called on the government of Hong Kong to pass amendments to a bill that would curb the use of its members’ content online without consent, and has said that even the reworked bill would contain “large weaknesses” if made law.

In a statement, CASBAA urged the legislative committee to “end a decade of delay” and pass the bill that would give media owners the right “at least in theory – to authorise electronic dissemination of their content”, which is commonly used for mash-ups and user generated material after illegally downloading content from the internet.

Opposition to the bill has been based on freedom of expression grounds.

The CEO of CASBAA, Christopher Slaughter argues that – as the pro-democracy protests continue on the streets of Hong Kong – while Hongkongers “may have reasons to be concerned about protecting their rights of free expression from challenges”, the bill was “not such a challenge.”

John Medeiros, the body’s chief policy officer, pointed out that in the 10 years that the legislative has been deliberating over new copyright protection laws, the world of TV has been “transformed”.

The old laws “never foresaw the degree to which broadband connections can be used to bring huge quantities of pirated digital content to every home in Hong Kong from places where copyright protection is weak,” he said.

CASBAA, whose members include Viacom, Disney, BBC, Fox and HBO, complained that the TV business is already suffering “huge harm” from online piracy that is not adequately protected from existing laws.

Rising levels of online piracy in Hong Kong are “plain to see for anyone with the will to have open eyes,” CASBAA stated.

Medeiros noted that – while he wants the bill passed quickly – the TV industry “remains critical” of the “large weaknesses” of the Amendment Bill.

“Establishment of a right to authorize communication of copyrighted works will not solve the piracy problem,” he said.

“Hong Kong is now way behind the curve,” Medeiros said, adding that the Amendment Bill will implement for the first time copyright treaties signed almost 20 years ago.

“It is an absolutely necessary first step,” he said.

Medeiros also proposed that the government try to “restore balance and provide a new breath of life” into Hong Kong’s creative industries.

CASBAA’s suggestions include the following, as detailed in the group’s memo to the legislature:

  • Institution of a more effective system to deal with repeat infringers, as has been implemented in numerous other jurisdictions.
  • Requiring search providers to de-list or lower results for known infringing sites.
  • Recommending that ISPs block access to the small number of streaming sites which are the most flagrant infringers. (We understand that mandatory site blocking is regarded as unacceptable by Hong Kong, but a less coercive approach could be tried.)
  • Requiring advertising servers and payment processors located in Hong Kong to cease servicing flagrant infringing sites.
  • Promoting Codes of Practice within the advertising industry, to avoid having revenues from Hong Kong go to support websites promoting illegal activities, including copyright violations and also activities such as gambling, fraud, and other cybercrimes.”

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