The Chief Executive Office may need to apply for five more licenses to ensure that a video uploaded by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does not constitute a copyright violation.

In the video posted on Monday, Leung is seen singing Beyond’s hit song “Like You” alongside band member Wong Ka-keung at an anniversary dinner hosted by the pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA). The video received thousands of shares, likes, and comments on Facebook.

Leung’s office said on Wednesday that it had applied for a streaming licence with the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong (CASH) and paid a “small sum.”

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. File

Renowned songwriter Adrian Chow, however, questioned whether Leung’s office would also need to apply for five more licences under the present copyright regime:

  1. A mechanical licence from the music publisher for the song’s reproduction right;
  2. A synchronisation licence from the music publisher for the synchronisation of both the video and sound tracks;
  3. A mechanical license from the record company for the karaoke version’s reproduction right;
  4. A synchronisation licence from the record company for the karaoke version’s synchronisation of both the video and sound tracks;
  5. A streaming licence for the karaoke version from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) or Hong Kong Recording Industry Alliance (HKRIA).

Chow said that any video of a song cover uploaded to social media may need all six licences, which could cost around HK$10,000 each.

“If you do not want the trouble, isn’t it better to include an exemption for user generated contents and a fair use term?” Chow asked.

A “fair use” term was proposed to be added into the controversial new copyright bill dubbed “Internet Article 23”. The term can protect personal non-commercial derivative works, such as those published by performers who cover songs, internet users who rewrite song lyrics, and live-stream game playing .

Adrian Chow.
Adrian Chow. File Photo: Stand News.

Exempted, but may be sued

Regarding the video, Director of Intellectual Property Ada Leung has said that, as a public figure, Leung’s act could fall under the exemption of “news reporting” provided in the new copyright bill, since the public would want to know more about him.

Craig Choy, legal consultant for internet freedom advocacy group Keyboard Frontline, told Apple Daily that the group stood against this principle if the criteria for exemption was based solely on whether the uploader was famous or not.

According to Choy, the video could have qualified for the “quotation” exemption but Leung Chun-ying would have had to state the name of the original author. If Leung does not pay all royalties due, he may a civil lawsuit.

However, Choy added that it would be difficult to prosecute Leung criminally under the new bill, as it would have to be proven that Leung’s new version replaced the original and hurt the interests of the copyright owners.

Nonetheless, Leung could still be prosecuted under the offence of “obtaining access to a computer with intent to commit an offence or with a dishonest intent” if it can be proven that he intended to distribute the video to hurt the copyright owners’ interests.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.