Local lawmakers have revealed that they do not fully understand potential restrictions on online activity posed by the passing of the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014.
The proposed bill, dubbed “Internet Article 23” due to perceived threats to free expression, provides exemptions for the use of copyrighted works for the purposes of parody, satire, pastiche, caricature, quotation and news reporting.
However, usage that does not fall into one of these categories could lead to a criminal investigation, prompting concerns that new amendments could make it an offence to live stream game-playing and to screen capture TV shows or movies.
Legislators from both the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps have shown that they do not know if these would count as exemptions under the revised law.
Surveying sector representative Tony Tse Wai-chuen told Apple Daily: “I don’t know what live game streaming is. I’m an amateur […] Does screen cap mean building plans?” Democratic Party chair Emily Lau Wai-hing also admitted she was unfamiliar with live game streaming.
Among 14 lawmakers the paper asked about the new bill, only Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the Neo Democrats recognised that the aforementioned activities may not be exempt.
Lawmakers against the bill
IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok criticised the government’s decision to discuss the bill with legislators only recently, suggesting that the work of persuading lawmakers should have begun sooner.
Failing that, he said that they should have accepted lawmakers’ amendments at the Bills Committee before sending it to the LegCo general assembly.
Previously, Mok has said he will vote down the bill if the amendments supported by the pro-democracy camp to protect internet rights are rejected. Lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun has also said he will vote down the bill.
LegCo members Raymond Wong Yuk-man, Ray Chan Chi-chuen, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Gary Fan Kwok-wai planned to stall the process by filibustering.
The Democratic Party, Civic Party and Labour Party have said they would try to speak for as long as possible at the LegCo section. Student group Scholarism, meanwhile, has urged people to send emails to lawmakers asking them to cast opposition votes. It said that 7,618 people have sent 694,642 emails to 68 lawmakers.
With majority support from the pro-Beijing camp, however, the government may have already secured the votes it needs to pass the bill.
‘Black bloc rally’
Internet freedom advocacy group Keyboard Frontline organised a rally outside the Legislative Council to oppose the bill; however, this has since cancelled due to a delay in the legislative process wrought by lack of quorum.
Keyboard Frontline spokesperson Glacier Kwong earlier said that the group expected 500 people to attend the rally. Kwong said that the group will dismiss the rally if people attempted to storm the LegCo building. However, she added, the group cannot control the crowded after their official rally had ended.
Localist group Hong Kong Indigenous urged protesters to wear black jackets, face masks and trousers, in order to adopt a “black bloc” tactic to conceal their identities.
Additional barricades were erected to increase its security at the LegCo complex, where police said they conducted risk assessments and would deploy appropriate manpower.
In November last year, pro-democracy protesters gathered outside the building in response to a false rumour that the bill would be passed on that day. Three were jailed for three and a half months after smashing a glass door to the building.