Most new copyright laws are enacted because artist lobby groups claim it would improve things for their clients. Governments often follow these claims without hearing all sides of the story behind closed doors, upsetting the public in the process.
Sometimes, though, governments strengthen copyright laws for their own ends, and leave artists as upset as regular consumers. It’s into the latter that Hong Kong’s new copyright finds itself placed.
The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011 is currently winding its way through the Legislative Council, and places new restrictions on how “works” can be used. Under the current law, infringement occurs when a work significantly damages an existing copyrighted work. The new law lowers this bar to any use which can ‘prejudicially affect ’ the rights owner.
Artists are worried that any form of satire or parody could become a criminal offense, particularly when targeted against the government or its officials. The fear is that posters, like this anti-Beijing parody of The Avengers movie poster featuring Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, would become illegal.
Not everyone is unhappy about the law though. The Hong Kong Motion Pictures Industry Association is reported to be in favour, believing it will help stem calculated losses they’ve attributed to YouTube.
Some artists however, have banded together into their own group to fight it. It’s not hard to see how this will end though, as SOPA-style protests working are the exception, not the rule.