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AL committee approves copyright bill
A Legislative Assembly (AL) committee gave its consent to the controversial copyrights bill revision, but stressed that the bill aimed to protect copyrights instead of targeting public antenna companies or favouring Cable TV, which welcomed the new bill yesterday.
The third standing committee of AL gave the green light for the much-debated bill, paving the way for approval by the AL general assembly. Committee president Cheang Chi Keong, however, stressed that the new bill did not, as many people suggested, target the local public antenna companies that are relaying copyright-protected TV programs, nor did it favor Cable TV, which has been the territory’s only legal concessionaire of cable television services since 1999. Cable TV has been repeatedly accusing public antenna companies of competition by illegal means.
“We want to make this very clear, that this bill doesn’t target them (public antenna),” he said, “antenna problems should be solved by the present laws and the new bill only handles copyright issues. To mix the two issues will only complicate the whole matter, so we must separate them clearly.”
“The committee did discuss the problem (public antenna operation), but the members agreed that it should be dealt with according to the present laws and regulations (instead of the new bill), because they (public antenna) are illegal.” He urged the government to tackle the problems swiftly.
He also pointed out that two lawmakers voiced concerns during the meeting that the bill might affect the public’s rights for access to public TV signals; and secondly that the 2-year maximum imprisonment for violation against the new law was too harsh. According to the established practice, the lawmakers were made anonymous.
But earlier this month lawmakers Chan Wai Chi and José Pereira Coutinho criticised the authority for drafting this new law to help Cable TV in its fight against public antenna companies, and as a result, exploiting the public’s rights to watch different TV channels currently available.
Cheong also said that the government wanted the new law to come into effect as soon as possible so that the authority could swiftly ratify two international treaties on copyright: the Copyright Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty, both of which were signed in 1996 under the World Intellectual Property Organization. Mainland China and Hong Kong ratified them in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
Macau’s copyright law was enacted in 1999 but the government decided to update it, extending the protection to Internet and digital technology.
Tam Mong Ping, Chief Operating Officer of Cable TV welcomed the AL committee’s decision. “It’s better to have laws than have no laws,” he said, but also stressed that it was more important if the authority enforced the new law, prepared by the Economic Services Bureau (DSE), effectively.
Tam denied that the new bill was “tailored-made” for Cable TV or targeting public antenna companies as some public opinions suggested, stressing that it was an international trend to reinforce protection of copyrights.
Asked about the impact of the new law, if approved by AL smoothly, on public antenna’s operation, Tam however, was even more cautious: “They have 60 or 70 channels, and they say they are cutting 8 or 10 copyright-protected ones, but later on, they might replace them with 10 new channels in the grey area (not clearly protected ones).” The practical influence, he stressed, depended on how the authority enforces the law.
Regarding Cable TV’s lawsuit against the government, Tam said the case was already filed to the court, so he would not comment on an issue already being dealt with proper legal procedures.
Macau Cable TV is suing the government for failing to prevent public antenna companies from illegally relaying copyright-protected channels and has asked for compensation, chief executive officer Angela Lam In Nie confirmed to Macau Daily Times last week. The company is also mulling to sue the public antenna companies again.
Public antenna companies have been illegally relaying copyright-protected channels even though Macau Cable TV has been the only legal concessionaire of cable television services since 1999. A report prepared by a Telecommunication Regulations Bureau (DSRT) workgroup with suggestions on how to solve the long-running conflict with Cable TV has been in the hands of Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On since last year.
Public antenna companies were not immediately available for comment on the new bill yesterday, but Cheong said after the committee’s meeting that in his earlier exchanges with public antenna companies, the operators had conceded to him that they knew their business practice had legal problems and they supported the government’s initiative to enact the new law.
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