Online Copyright Infringement: The View From Hong Kong

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IP Dragon, now coming to you from Hong Kong, reports on the following data:

60 percent of young people in Hong Kong download films or music illegally, according to Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) survey.

17 perent of 559 respondents aged 10 to 24 were unsure whether they were breaking copyright law.

As usual, I think that the 60% figure is low, although I don’t know what the specific question was these kids were being asked. If the question was something like “Have you downloaded an illegal MP3 or video file during the past 30 days?” I would expect a hit rate of at least 80%.

The only reason that number should be low is if young people in Hong Kong are simply not tech savvy and therefore do not know how to obtain access to such illegal content. That’s very hard to believe, particularly with respect to MP3 files.

The second figure, on legal knowledge, is much easier to believe. Twenty percent of kids probably believe that the earth is flat and that Hong Kong is the capital city of China.

Where does all this leave us? Well, no surprise. Most kids in Hong Kong understand perfectly well that file sharing of this sort constitutes copyright infringement, yet at least 60% of them do it anyway.

Kind of supports my “They will do it as long as they can get away with it” theory of IP infringement. Only if folks are scared of prosecution, or if technology comes up with a magic copy protection solution, will this problem go away.

Public education/awareness campaigns don’t seem to be getting the job done.

4 responses on “Online Copyright Infringement: The View From Hong Kong

  1. Mark

    “….as long as they can get away with it” is a good point but not all of it.

    Where the industry has innovated and offered paid for solutions (apple, last.fm et al) the take up has been very positive. I think there is a real lack of viable (and legal) alternatives for downloading music across Asia. The demand is there the solution is not – this generation just does not buy physical products for music and wouldn’t even think to.

    As for punishments I think HK is unique in being the only place in the world that has actually jailed someone for sharing a filen in this case a movie. How much harsher can you get?

    1. Stan Post author

      Agreed with respect to paid services. These can be attractive, depending on pricing and quality.

      On punishment, though. Even if they put someone in jail or fine someone a few hundred thousand dollars, it only works if the infringer thinks they are likely to be caught.

      All this stuff works together, I think. If the chances of being caught are moderate, yet there is a cheap, legal alternative, then kids will probably flock to that alternative. However, if they is no chance of being caught and the quality/experience of getting that illegal file is similar to the real deal, why would these kids choose the legal alternative?

  2. SeekTruthFromFacts

    A question that seems to be beyond my Google-fu:

    Is it actually illegal to download copyrighted materials on the Mainland?

    I act as though it is (to the amazement of my friends), but ’21st Century’ (the student edition of ‘China Daily’) recently ran an article stating in black and white that it was perfectly legal to download entertainment material for personal use.

    As I non-lawyer, I wonder if clause 22(1) of the Copyright Law encourages such a view. Article 47 clearly forbids uploading, but downloading isn’t expressly proscribed.

    1. Stan Post author

      No, that ‘s a perfectly valid issue. The law really goes after uploaders, not users. Also, if you are trying to enforce your rights, going after the big operators is obviously the way to go.

      On the other hand, anyone who had obtained any torrent file (for example) has almost certainly engaged in some uploading, so I think a large number of users would also be caught by uploader liability anyway. For MP3 files, maybe not.

      All that being said, for a newspaper to tell everyone that downloading such files is perfectly legal — that’s unclear at best, and irresponsible regardless.