Second Reading Speech on Copyright (Amendment) Bill by Senior Minister of State for Law Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee
15 Sep 2009 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
- Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time”.
Objective of Bill
- Mr Speaker, when the Copyright Act was first introduced in 1987, one of its key objectives was to strike a fair balance between the rights of copyright owners and copyright users, ensuring in the process that the flow of knowledge, ideas and information would not be unduly stifled.
- Towards that end, the Act provided for the establishment of a Copyright Tribunal as a quasi-judicial body to hear disputes over copyright licensing issues. Its role was to provide an expeditious forum for copyright owners and users to resolve their disputes on issues involving the terms of licences granted such as the fees payable, without having to go to the Courts. The Tribunal has fulfilled an important function these past 18 years.
- During this time, however, changes in technology have given rise to new ways of accessing and using copyright works. Hence, this Bill seeks to update the Tribunal’s scope of coverage, to ensure that it remains relevant in the face of these technological advances.
- Sir, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore conducted a round of public consultation over six weeks from 11 February to 24 March last year to solicit views on possible changes to the Copyright Tribunal. It received valuable feedback from IP rights organizations, academics and user groups which were carefully considered. Where appropriate, they have been incorporated in the provisions of this Bill.
Salient Features of the Bill
- Let me now highlight the key amendments.
Refining the Jurisdiction of the Copyright Tribunal
- First, the amendment to expand the Tribunal’s jurisdiction over all types of copyright works.
- Mr Speaker, under the existing Copyright Act, the Tribunal’s jurisdiction is confined to disputes over specified types of copyright works for a limited number of uses. For example, the Tribunal can hear disputes over the fees payable for making copies of literary works by educational institutions for teaching purposes, or the making of recordings and films of works for the purpose of broadcasting.
- This limits the ability of the Copyright Tribunal to deal with copyright disputes arising from new technological advances. For example, the reproduction and storage of digital sound recordings in hard disks for commercial use is prevalent today. However, disputes arising from such use do not currently come under the purview of the Tribunal.
- The amendment therefore seeks to refine the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to allow the Tribunal to play its intended role in the face of technological developments. With the proposed amendment, the Tribunal will be able to hear licence disputes relating to all types of copyright works.
- Sir, the second amendment seeks to refine the scope of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to cover licensors who are in the business of collectively administering copyright licences for different copyright owners. This change is mainly in recognition of the fact that licensors such as collecting societies and commercial agencies are capable of amassing a wide repertoire of copyright works. As such, they are able to adopt a relatively strong bargaining position vis-à-vis licensees or businesses that make use of the copyright works under their purview. In this way, the Copyright Tribunal can act as a check against licensors imposing unreasonable licensing fees and terms. IPOS intends, in due course, to enact regulations to further amplify this provision.
- Individual copyright owners will be excluded from the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. This approach of excluding individual copyright owners is also the practice in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Empowering the Copyright Tribunal to Substitute Licence Schemes
- A third amendment is to empower the Tribunal to vary the terms of any licence scheme, to the extent of substituting the licence scheme, as deemed reasonable.
- Currently under the Copyright Act, the Tribunal is only authorized to vary a licence scheme. The current provisions do not expressly empower the Tribunal to substitute a new scheme. However, in practice, the Tribunal may have to order a copyright licence scheme to be substantially varied if justified on the facts of a case. In doing so, the question may then arise as to whether such changes have the effect of substituting a new scheme, which the Tribunal does not appear to be empowered to do under the current provisions.
- This amendment will provide certainty that the Tribunal can do so, that is to say, the Copyright Tribunal, in order to make rulings that are reasonable and fair in a broad range of circumstances, may substantially vary an existing license scheme, to the extent of substituting it with a new scheme.
Appointing up to two Deputy Presidents and up to 15 Other Members
- Sir, on the amendments to the structure of the Copyright Tribunal.
- The existing Copyright Act provides for the appointment of 1 President and up to 4 other members. Each Copyright Tribunal hearing requires a quorum comprising of the President and at least 2 members.
- In practice, with so few members appointed, this can pose difficulties in convening the Tribunal promptly as the Tribunal members’ personal schedules may be conflicted.
- The proposed amendments will give the Minister the powers to appoint 2 more Deputy Presidents and up to 15 members to the Copyright Tribunal. This will provide a bigger pool of members to fill the 3 requisite positions to convene a Tribunal hearing. The amendments also empower the Deputy Presidents to preside over Tribunal proceedings in place of the President.
- As the expansion of the Tribunal’s scope of jurisdiction may result in an increase in the number of cases, these amendments will allow multiple tribunals to be held concurrently, if such a need arises.
- Sir, in conclusion, in summary, these amendments will expand and clarify the powers as well as improve the operations of the Copyright Tribunal to ensure that it can effectively and expeditiously discharge its duties to hear all copyright disputes in the face of continuing changes in technology and usage of copyright works.
- Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012