Friday, November 25, 2005

P2P vs. copyright: where should Hong Kong stand?

I gave a presentation on "P2P vs. copyright: where should Hong Kong stand?" in the Telecom InfoTechnology Forum on November 24, 2005, organized by Dr John Ure's Telecom Research Project of the University of Hong Kong. (Click here for background briefing paper)

My basic premise was consistent with my previous writing on the subject, that P2P and even BT are good, and not "bad taste" as some would characterize. While BT abusers are wrong, the issues cannot be over-generalized to be the righteous against the theives.

Although the Hong Kong court successfully prosecuted 古惑天皇, the case would only serve to set a precedence for the audio-visual copyright owners to pursue civil cases. Already, BT abusers are moving to place their seeds in China and look for other technical alternatives harder to trace. However, the case was still a positive move because it does serve as a deterrent to the bulk of the more casual downloaders, and the Government did not seek to over-legislate but used existing law to test the case.

Unfortunately, the music industry is already pressing the ISP industry to give customer data to them for civil prosecution. They have tried it for years, since the last millennium, unsuccessfully. There are still grave concern of such actions on the privacy of Internet users and potential liabilities to ISPs. When the content industry seeks court orders, will our judges know the technology implications when they make their decisions? Also, who will bear the extra cost of such actions? Certainly it should not be the ISPs.

Why don't the music industry give the customers what they want, which is music in electronic format, and not more and more elaborate yet unenvironmental packages, with more and more plastic and paper wasted? The music industry is alienating its own customers, big time.

We must also note the perceived inconsistency in legislation and enforcement between online music/movie piracy and other forms of intellectual property infringement like pirated goods, software or audio-visual content on CDs, and even cable piracy. The Government seems extra active in pursuing online piracy, yet going in opposite direction for the rest.

Case in point is the Government's proposed changes to the Copyright Ordinance to implement statutory exemption for employees and no director liability except for those with managing roles, and not to require record-keeping. Why is the Government prosecuting individual BT users with no commercial gain, while letting business infringers get away, just because they have more lobbyists in the pro-business legislators?

The industry demands more consistent legislation and enforcement for all forms of intellectual property violations.

Click here to download my presentation.


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