Laws Related to Copying News Articles — Non-commercial Photocopying of News Articles Will Not be Made Criminally Liable

On the issue whether photocopying news articles will be criminally liable, PRPA made a submission in response to a consultation paper of the Commerce and Industry Bureau (CIB) last December. Later, the Association was invited to present its stances at the LegCo Panel on Commerce and Industry. In February, CIB reported to the LegCo Panel on Commerce and Industry its proposals to the way forward(Note 1). One proposal is to make the arrangement in the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 permanent. This keeps criminal liability in only four categories of work, namely, computer programs, movies, television dramas and musical recordings(Note 2). In other words, news article is not within the four categories. Hence, non-commercial photocopying of news articles will not be made criminally liable. PRPA considers that PR practitioners should stay alert on a few points: 1. Though photocopying news articles under the above condition will not attract criminal lability, civil liability continues to exist. 2. However, there will still be criminal liability if photocopying news articles is for commercial use (e.g. trade or sell, including news clipping companies’ service) (Note 3). On whether criminal liability will apply to PR consultancies with client service to photocopy news articles, the situation is yet to be clarified. 3. At this stage, the Government is still drafting the bill, which will be submitted to the LegCo before July for scrutiny. The respective government suggestions may still be amended in the legislative process. In general, the current government recommendations are positive to the PR industry. However, as the legislative process is underway, while there is grey area for certain industry acts, PRPA will keep monitoring the issue and striving for achieving reasonable and favourable results for the PR industry. We shall also provide the latest situation updates to you. If there is any further inquiry, please contact us via Intellectual Property Ordinance Task Force Hong Kong Public Relations Professionals’ Association Note 1 : CIB’s “Review of Certain Provisions of the Copyright Ordinance” can be downloaded from (English) or (Chinese). Please refer to paragraphs 5-16 for details. Note 2 : CIB’s response to PRPA’s enquiry (see Note 1) is: “end user criminal liability for possessing copyright infringing articles in business only exists for four categories of works, namely, computer programs, movies, television dramas and musical recordings.” Note 3 : CIB’s response to PRPA’s enquiry (see Note 1) is: “However, criminal liability for dealing in (e.g. trade or sell) infringing copies of all types of copyright works remains.”