Submission by the
Motion Picture Association (MPA)
LegCo Panel on Trade and Industry
for the June 7, 1999 Meeting
The Motion Picture Association (MPA), a trade association representing the seven major Hollywood film studios, is pleased to be invited to participate in the June 7 LegCo Panel on Trade and Industry meeting to discuss the public consultation paper on "Combating Intellectual Property Rights Infringement in the HKSAR". MPA filed a submission on the public consultation paper and has also had an opportunity to review the Government's report on the outcome of the public consultation and the proposed way forward.
MPA is generally pleased with the Government's proposed way forward to adopt additional legal tools but we are very concerned that the Government is not paying enough attention to the unanimous call by copyright industry associations and businesses in the Hong Kong Copyright Alliance to assign police copyright enforcement responsibility.
Shorter Term Measures
MPA is in full agreement with the legislative options the Government proposes to pursue quickly. MPA thinks the most important legislative option is to include copyright piracy under schedule 1 of OSCO and is pleased the Government is proposing to take this step. MPA also supports the Government's plan to prepare legislative amendments to prevent bootlegging by making the possession of recording equipment in a cinema or concert hall an offence. MPA would recommend, however, that the Government also make appropriate amendments to make it a criminal offense to record of possess an unauthorised recording of a film being shown in a cinema regardless of the intended use (Option 6).
Longer Term Considerations
MPA would like to see the introduction of minimum sentences and notes that this idea received "much support" among the submissions according to the Government's summary report. Nonetheless, we can understand the difficulties in restricting the discretion of the Judiciary in sentencing and think the Government's plan to pursue an alternative idea of asking the Court of
Appeal to hand down sentencing guidelines for the lower courts has merit. MPA thinks deterrent sentencing is an essential element in fighting piracy and urges the Government to take all possible steps in this direction.
MPA agrees with the Government that immediate closure orders upon conviction (Option 5) is the better course to follow than closure upon repeat convictions (Option 5). MPA thinks this will be a highly effective legislative tool and would like to see the Government treat this with priority.
MPA supports all three proposals covered in this section and is disappointed that the Government does not support the third - licensing retail outlets selling optical discs. The Government makes the case that licensing outlets would be an administrative burden. While we accept this fact, we would submit that shop licensing would be a highly effective way to stop piracy. Optical disc shops found operating without a license could be shut down immediately without a court conviction. One of the licensing conditions should be that shops are not allowed to deal in pirated goods and that the license would be revoked upon conviction for piracy. MPA urges the Government to reconsider this idea. Shop licensing works well in other places.
MPA welcomes the plan to set up a special Customs task force of some 100 officers to concentrate on retail piracy; however, MPA DOES NOT THINK THIS IS SUFFICIENT. MPA is extremely disappointed that the Government did not even mention that a number of the submissions made a strong case for the police to be assigned copyright enforcement responsibility, in addition to Customs. MPA's submission led off with this recommendation and we placed this as the highest priority. MPA is not the only copyright industry association with strong feelings on this issue. The message during the March 17 Blackout Day was that we want the police to be assigned copyright enforcement authority. The Hong Kong Copyright Alliance, of which MPA is a participant, made the same appeal in a letter to Chief Executive Tung Chee- Hwa.
MPA has high regard for Hong Kong Customs and recognizes the tremendous efforts Customs has made to fight piracy. However, despite hundreds of raids and the seizure of millions of pirate optical discs, piracy levels are intolerably high. MPA does not think Customs alone has the resources to do the job and
does not think that marginal increases in the number of Customs officers devoted to intellectual property enforcement will be sufficient.
There are over 27,000 police officers in Hong Kong. They patrol their respective districts 24 hours a day. They know what is taking place on the ground. Customs can and does invite the police to join in on copyright enforcement but this is not the same as the police, at the national level, being assigned copyright enforcement responsibility.
MPA strongly urges the Government to make a policy decision to assign police with copyright enforcement authority.
The problems piracy is creating to the film industry in Hong Kong cannot be overstated. The situation is dire. We thank the Government and the LegCo Panel on Trade and Industry for giving MPA an opportunity to present our views and we hope you will find our comments constructive.