At Lingnan University, we extensively employ IT in our daily work and thus we need to understand what software piracy is. Nowadays pirate software appears and looks like original software and the level of accuracy employed in imitation has increased dramatically over the years. To provide you some good pointers on how to protect yourself, we shall refer to the Intellectual Property Ordinance. As it is an amendment to the existing ordinance, there are some changes and new additions to the law and you being a part of Lingnan University, you need to understand some key points of this law and its scope in Lingnan University.
Without much ado, let's go through some of the pointers. Some of the information here has been extracted from the Intellectual Property Department and where so, is copied word for word.
- Amendments to the Copyright Ordinance 2001 - Copyright in Education
- Software Available in Lingnan University
1. What is the background of the recent amendments to the Copyright Ordinance?
In early 1999, third party consulted the public on additional legal tools to combat intellectual property rights infringements. One of the proposals that gained wide public support was to combat corporate copyright piracy activities by criminalizing the use of infringing products, for example, pirated computer software, in business. According to an unofficial estimate, about 50% of all computer software used in business is pirated. Such an excessive degree of violation of intellectual property rights has significantly affected the legitimate interests of copyright owners, discouraged innovation and investments, and tarnished the international image of Hong Kong.
The Copyright Ordinance was amended to implement the proposal. The amendments took effect from 1 April 2001.
To address the public concern that the amendments had hampered the dissemination of information in enterprises as well as teaching activities in schools, the Legislative Council passed the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 in June 2001.
As a result, the criminal provisions in the recently amended Copyright Ordinance will continue to apply, with a slightly narrowed scope, to computer software, movies, television dramas and music recordings. For copyright works other than these four categories, the criminal provisions will revert to the position before the amendments took effect.
2. What are the effects of the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 in terms of criminal liabilities?
The effects of the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 in terms of criminal liabilities are as follows :
a. anyone who knowingly possesses an infringing copy of computer software, a movie, a television drama or music recording for the purpose of or in the course of any trade or business may be criminally liable;
b. the use of parallel-imported computer software in business is not a criminal offence;
c. anyone who deals in (i.e. buying, selling, distributing, importing or exporting otherwise than for private and domestic purposes) infringing copies of copyright works other than those mentioned in (a) above may be criminally liable if he knows or has reason to believe that copies in question are infringing copies; and
d. the use of infringing copies of copyright works other than those mentioned in (a) above in business is not a criminal offence.
The maximum penalty of the offence for (a) and (c) above is a fine of $50,000 per infringing copy and 4 years' imprisonment.
3. Will a teacher face criminal prosecution for using, for example, an unauthorized photocopy of a newspaper cutting after the passage of the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001?
No. In effect, the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 suspends the criminal sanctions against the possession of an unauthorized photocopy of a newspaper cutting, an unauthorized recording of a television programme, or an unauthorized copy of a photograph downloaded from the Internet in the course of business (which includes teaching activities in educational establishments).
4. Why are only four categories of copyright works (computer software, movies, television dramas and music recordings) included?
These sorts of copyright works are not normally disseminated in enterprises or schools as "information".
Moreover, these products generally have substantial commercial value. Piracy of these products, in particular computer software, in Hong Kong and elsewhere is rampant and it is therefore necessary for the Copyright Ordinance to provide a higher level of protection to them.
5. When does the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 take effect?
1 April 2001.
6. Is there any end date for the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001?
Section 3 of the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 provides that the suspension provisions will lapse on 31 July 2003. The Government is drafting legislation to make permanent the suspension arrangement.
7. With respect to the four categories of copyright works, are there any concrete examples to illustrate the position before and after 1 April 2001?
Suppose a company engages in the sale of clothing. The company needs computer software to support its business activities. The company then buys one set of computer software which is licensed for use in one computer only, and installs the same software in the computer of each of its 50 employees (or else in a network server for shared use by its 50 employees).
Before 1 April 2001, it was not absolutely clear whether such acts amount to criminal acts, as the business of the company is selling clothing rather than pirated computer software.
After 1 April 2001, it is clear that the company will commit a criminal offence under such circumstances.
Another example is a barber shop playing music recording or videos containing television drama or movies for the enjoyment of customers in the course of its business. If the music recording or video is played from a pirated CD or VCD, and the shop owner and the employee responsible for operating the CD or VCD player know that the CD or VCD is a pirated copy, they may be criminally liable.
8. Will the employees responsible for the infringing acts in question 7 be liable?
Depending on the circumstances of the case, employees responsible for the infringement may also become liable. For example, an IT manager of the company who knowingly installs infringing copies of software on his workplace's computers may commit a criminal offence. He would not be exempted from criminal liability because he acted on the instruction of the company's proprietor. In addition, employees who know that software installed in their computers is infringing copies and who continue to use it may also be liable to criminal prosecution.
9. Can you give some practical guidelines on "dos" and "don'ts" in order to comply with the amended law?
The following guidelines may be useful -
a. Generally do not buy from unlicensed hawkers or temporary premises. Legitimate distributors of computer software, movies, television dramas or music recordings do not normally authorize such places to sell their products.
b. By all means seek the best price for the product; but if the price is no more than a fraction of the price for which an authorized version of the product is normally sold, this may be a clue that the copy may be pirated. If in doubt, approach the copyright owner for additional information.
c. If you are purchasing computer software for your business, get a set for each computer that will run the software, or purchase an appropriate network software license.
d. Carefully study the licensing conditions to ensure that the software installed in your computers is properly licensed for use in your business. Be sure you know your rights and obligations.
e. Conduct periodic software auditing to ensure that only properly licensed computer software has been installed in any computer in your office.
f. Ensure that all employees in your office are fully aware of the company's policy and practice on the use of computer software.
g. Do not play music recording, movies or television drama videos for your business using pirated CDs, DVDs, VCDs or videotapes.
h. If you are an employee, do not use computer software for your job if you know or have reason to believe it is pirated.
10. What if I honestly believe that the copy of the computer software, movie, television drama or music recording that I possess for my business is a licensed copy, but it turns out to be infringing?
A person who possesses an infringing copy of computer software, a movie, a television drama or music recording for use in his business will not commit an offence if he or she does not know and has no reason to believe that the copy in question is an infringing copy. In case your business were suspected of breaking the law, showing that you have followed the "dos" and "don'ts" set out in question 9 could help you to demonstrate that you did not know and had no reason to believe that the copy is an infringing copy. The court will decide ultimately on the basis of all relevant facts and circumstances.
11. Will Customs & Excise Department conduct routine checks at various business organizations to see if infringing copies of computer software, movies, television dramas or music recordings are being used?
No. Investigations will be carried out in response to reports lodged, for example, by, copyright owners or members of the public.
12. Will Customs & Excise Department enter and search the premises of a business organization upon receipt of a report?
Customs & Excise Department will not enter or search the premises of a business organization unless there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that it has committed an offence. Under such circumstances, Customs & Excise Department will normally apply to a magistrate for an entry and search warrant for searching the premises concerned.
B. Computer Software
1. When using legitimate software, the computer will automatically create a copy of the software in its memory. Does this constitute an infringing act?
No. According to section 61 of the Copyright Ordinance, a lawful user of a copy of a computer program may copy the program without infringing the copyright in the program if the copying is necessary for his lawful use.
2. To cater for unexpected failure of computer systems, it is necessary for enterprises to produce a back-up copy of all the files in a computer system, including computer software. Does this constitute an infringing act?
No. According to section 60 of the Copyright Ordinance, a lawful user of a copy of a computer program may make a back-up copy of the program without infringing the copyright in the program if it is necessary for him to have the back-up copy for the purpose of his lawful use. But if the software licensing agreement prescribes conditions for making back-up copies, users must follow the relevant conditions.
3. Some people have said that because of the hardware available in their enterprises, they need to continue using out-dated versions of software products. If the software they use is pirated, and that the legitimate copies of the software are no longer available in the market, is there any legitimate way to solve this problem?
Enterprises may be able to make use of the "downgrade" arrangement provided by some software publishers. According to the Business Software Alliance ("BSA"), most of its members provide a "downgrade" arrangement so that users can continue using "pirated" out-dated versions of the software legally as long as they have purchased new versions of the software. Users must contact relevant software publishers directly to make the necessary arrangements. For more details, please visit http://ww2.bsa.org/country.aspx?sc_lang=en-US-HK
4. If employee installs pirated software in his computer by himself for office duties, will the employer be criminally liable?
If the employee installs the pirated software with employer's consent, and the employer knows or has reason to believe that the software in question is an infringing copy, the employer could also be prosecuted.
Employers should implement proper software asset management measures and ensure that all employees are aware of the requirement that only authorized software should be used. Companies should also conduct periodic software asset audit. Such measures will reduce employers' risk of facing prosecution if their company falls under suspicion of breaking the law.
5. A company bought a computer and the computer was pre-loaded with pirated software by the computer vendor. Will the company be liable?
According to the amended Copyright Ordinance, if a person knowingly uses infringing copies of computer software in business, he will commit a criminal offence. The company should check with the supplier and request confirmation that all software installed in the computer is legitimate and has been properly licensed for business purposes. All pirated software should be removed. Do follow up with the supplier if it cannot provide all the licenses of the software pre-loaded onto the computer.
6. Can software be used in business in any manner as long as it is licensed or legitimate?
Licensed software must be used according to the terms of the license. The installation onto multiple computers of software licensed for use on a single computer violates the license condition. This is the same as making infringing copies of the software. Possession of such infringing copies in business may put you at risk of prosecution.
7. Is it an offence if someone uses infringing software for private and domestic purposes?
No. The use of infringing software for private and domestic purposes is not a criminal offence.
8. Is it an offence if someone uses parallel-imported computer software in business?
No. The use of parallel imported computer software is not a criminal offence.
9. Will a person be liable if he installs pirated software in his home computer so that he can use it to do office work as well as for private and domestic purpose?
If someone knowingly installs pirated software in his home computer for domestic as well as business purposes, he may commit a criminal offence.
10. Does using "freeware" or "share-ware" downloaded from the Internet infringe copyright?
The software copyright owner authorizes genuine 'freeware', and so downloading it will not be infringe copyright. Note that you should only use 'freeware' in accordance with the license conditions. Some "freeware" and "share-ware" products have a license condition that says that they can be used for personal or private purposes at no charge, but one must pay if it is used for commercial purposes. Users must therefore read carefully the license conditions before downloading.
11. How can I tell whether computer software purchased from the Internet is pirated or legitimate?
Here are some useful guidelines:
a. Try to make purchase at well-known and credible web sites. One can also ask the software publishers for authorize web sites.
b. By all means seek the best price for the product; but if the price is no more than a fraction of the price for which an authorized version of the product is normally sold, this is a clue that the copy may be pirated.
12. How can I tell whether software freely downloaded from the Internet is pirated or legitimate?
If you do not know whether the relevant web site has permission from copyright owners to provide the software, you should use reasonable judgment and make some enquiries. If you possess infringing software but you did not know and you had no reason to believe that it is an infringing copy, you would not commit an offence. Should you for any reason be suspected of breaking the law, showing that you have used reasonable judgment and made appropriate enquiries can help to demonstrate that you did not know and had no reason to believe that the software was an infringing copy. The court will decide ultimately on the basis of all relevant facts and circumstances.
13. As an employee, what should I do if I know that my employer has installed pirated software in my office computer?
Use of pirated software is like using stolen property. Government encourages employers to adopt proper software asset management measures. As an employee, you should assist your company in obeying the law by requesting your employer to use only properly licensed software. Other possible actions that you may take include refusing to use the pirated software and reporting the matter to the Customs and Excise Department.
14. What steps should I take to ensure that all the computer software used in my business is properly licensed?
You should adopt proper software asset management (SAM) measures to ensure that only properly licensed software is used in your business. Examples of these measures are:
a. appoint a compliance officer or an officer responsible for managing software assets to oversee and to act as a focal point for matters related to SAM and intellectual property;
b. promulgate internal instructions in respect of the proper management and use of computer software to ensure that each staff member clearly understands the requirements;
c. ensure general awareness of all staff members to use only authorized software;
d. acquire software legitimately;
e. keep software licenses;
f. keep software inventory up-to-date;
g. maintain and implement proper procedures for installing and distributing software;
h. conduct periodic software asset audit; and
i. confirm proper licensing and authorization for all software used.
15. An employee of an accounting firm downloads from the Internet a picture for use as wallpaper in his office computer. He is not authorized to do so. Is this a criminal offence?
The infringing act in question knowingly possesses an infringing copy of a copyright work (an infringing picture). But since the act is not relevant to the business of the firm (i.e. accounting), and the infringing copy is for personal enjoyment of the employee, it is not a criminal offence.
16. A person uses pirated software for personal purposes at work. Is this a criminal offence?
The infringing act in question is knowingly possessing infringing copy of a copyright work (an infringing software). As long as the infringing software is only used for personal purposes that are unrelated to the business of the firm, it is not a criminal offence.
17. How about an employee listening to music from pirated sound recordings for his enjoyment during office hours?
The infringing act in question knowingly possesses an infringing copy of a copyright work (an infringing sound recording). As the act has nothing to do with the business of the firm and is purely for personal enjoyment, it is not a criminal offence.
Copyright in Education
1. Is it an offence to make copies of copyright works in schools for the purposes of instruction?
The Copyright Ordinance has already contained provisions which allow schools to make copies of copyright works, to a reasonable extent, for the purposes of instruction without having to seek consent of copyright owners. However, such acts must not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work by the copyright owner or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner. However, if a license for photocopying of the copyright works through an established licensing scheme is available, schools must first obtain the license before making copies of the works concerned. Regarding photocopying of books, the Education Department, the Hong Kong Subsidized Secondary Schools Council and the Hong Kong Subsidized Primary Schools Council has each concluded a licensing agreement with the Hong Kong Reprographic Rights Licensing Society in April last year. This will facilitate both government and subsidized schools photocopying books according to the terms of the agreement.
2. Can schools make photocopies of news articles, fine essays or works of educational value for the discussion and appreciation by students?
The existing Copyright Ordinance has already provided for flexible treatment of photocopying in schools. Please refer to the answer of question 1 above. At present, teachers can make, to a reasonable extent, photocopies of excerpt of news articles and distribute them to students in their classes for the purposes of instruction. This falls within the permitted acts of the Copyright Ordinance.
3. Can some examples be clearly given to explain to schools and define what kinds of photocopying activities are against the law?
It will be an offence if a school, without the consent of the copyright owner, arranges the photocopying of an entire reference book for students, or compiles the essential parts of five different textbooks available in the market into one bound volume for students' use. Obviously such acts unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner.
4. Will the Government conduct checks on schools to combat copyright infringing activities?
For civil infringement cases, copyright owners take litigation on their own through the court.
If criminal infringement activities are involved, the Customs & Excise Department (C&ED) is responsible for the enforcement. Since it is necessary to identify the copyright owner of the infringing articles and to ascertain whether the making of those articles has been licensed C&ED will only take enforcement actions upon receiving complaints by identifiable complainants and obtaining the consent for assistance from the copyright owner concerned. The C&ED will not initiate checks on schools.
5. What will be the consequences for a school that breaks the law? Who will be liable?
If a school is involved in a copyright infringing act, it may be subject to both civil and criminal liability. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the school management (e.g. the principal and supervisor) and the employees of the school (e.g. teachers or other staff) may also be liable.
6. Is it against the law for a teacher or student to make large quantities of copies of reference materials and distribute them among students?
A teacher or student who, for the purpose of research or private study, makes, to a reasonable extent, copies of a copyright work without authorization will not contravene the law. However, one may not be allowed to copy the whole piece of work and normally not more than one copy will be allowed. Bulk copying may constitute an act of civil or criminal infringement.
7. Can teachers download articles and pictures, etc from the Internet for the purposes of instruction?
Yes, if such act is done to a reasonable extent. The Copyright Ordinance has already contained provisions that allow schools to download and makes copies, to a reasonable extent, copyright works for the purposes of instruction without obtaining the consent of the copyright owner. However, such acts must not conflict with the normal exploitation of the works by copyright owners or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of copyright owners.
However, if a license to download the relevant works is available through an established licensing scheme, schools must obtain the license before downloading and making copies of the works concerned.
8. If the teaching materials contain extracts of articles in a copyright work, can a teacher upload the materials on the Intranet of the school to facilitate the teaching of other teachers or for students' use?
Yes, if such act is done to a reasonable extent. The Copyright Ordinance has already contained provisions that allow schools to upload, to a reasonable extent, copyright works for the purposes of instruction without obtaining the consent of copyright owners. However, such acts must not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work by the copyright owner or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner. It must be noted that the materials concerned can only be delivered to the teachers and students of the schools concerned through the Intranet and must not be made available to the public.
However, a license to upload the relevant works is available through an established scheme; schools must obtain the license before uploading the works concerned.
9. Can schools make recordings of radio or television programmes for showing to students?
Yes. The Copyright Ordinance has already contained provisions that allow schools to make recordings of radio or television programmes, to a reasonable extent, for the purposes of instruction without obtaining the consent of copyright owners. However, such acts must not conflict with the normal exploitation of the works by copyright owners or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of copyright owners.
However, if schools can obtain a license for the relevant program through an established licensing scheme, schools must first obtain the license before recording and showing the programme.
I still don't understand any of the legal terms, what can I do?
You can always refer to IPD homepage which is located at http://www.info.gov.hk/ipd/ for more information or visit them at 24th Floor, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
How about at Lingnan?
Last but not least, ITSC has ensured over the years that all our rolled out PCs both in your office and in the labs comply with our software management assets control. You don't have to worry about your desktop PC unless you have installed software that was not purchased by Lingnan University. If you have installed any self-purchased software, please ensure that you keep all your original documents, license agreements and serial numbers in a safe accessible place, in case you are asked to authenticate the software by ITSC staff or the Customs & Excise Department office.
If you believe that you may have accidentally installed a pirated software, you can ask ITSC to help you to remove the software by restoring your desktop PC to its original software format as rolled out on the first day. ITSC will not selectively help you to remove the software but you can run the uninstall program to remove program yourself. Any side effects resulting from such uninstalls will not be entertained and you can only restore your PC to its original format, should things go wrong.
Intellectual Property Department, HKSAR
Business Software Alliance, Hong Kong