Timeline of copyright legislation and amendments in Hong Kong

Timeline of copyright legislation and amendments in Hong Kong


Enacted in 1997, Hong Kong’s Copyright Ordinance has seen five amendments over 18 years, an amendment every 2.5 years in average. But the 6th amendment, first introduced in 2011, has yet to be finished though it was redrafted in 2014 after severe resistance due to the concern that it may threat online free speech. The administration has brought in fair dealing exceptions in the 2104 bill for exchange of a better copyright protection in the digital environment, but online users still do not trust the government. From the timeline compiled by HKTR, you will find it the most difficult amendment in the history of copyright legislation.


Phase 1:


Legislation & 1st criminal infringement


June 1997 The Copyright Ordinance 24 June 1997, LegCo passed the Copyright Bill,which stipulated that works transmitted on the Internet enjoyed copyright protection
Feb 2001 1st amendment:

End-user criminal liability

7 Feburary 2001,LegCo passed the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2000,under which a person would commits an offence if he possesses copyright infringing works,raising concerns that it may harm information communications and education
July 2003 2nd amendment:

Liberalised parallel importation of computer software

2 July 2003,LegCo passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2001, liberalising the use of computer software purchased outside Hong Kong
Mar 2004 3rd amendment

Confined the scope of end-user criminal liability

24 March 2004,LegCo passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2003,in which the widely concerned criminal liability for possessing infringing copies in business is confined to four categories of works: computer programs, movies, musical recordings and television dramas
Jan 2005 1st person convicted for distributing infringing works with BitTorrent Jan 2005,Chan Nai Ming was arrested for uploading infringing copies of films using BitTorrent. 18 May 2008, the Court of Final Appeal upheld the sentence of 3 months in jail, making Chan the 1st person in the world convicted for illegal distribution using the peer-to-peer sharing technology
Phase 2:

1st attempt at amendment for  copyright protection in the Internet age (failed)

Dec 2006 Public consultation on copyright protection in the digital environment The consultation, ended in April 2007, centred on the legal liability for unauthorised uploading and downloading of copyright works and the role of online service providers (“safe harbour”), among others
Jun 2007 4th amendment:

“fair dealing” exemption for education purpose

27 June 2007, LegCo passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2006,introducing a general exemption for the purpose of education and public administration (“fair dealing”);and a new “business end-user distribution offence” substituted the controversial “end-user distribution offence”
Apr 2008 Right of communication proposal 15 April 2008,in the results of a public consultation on “Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment” ,the government proposed “a right of communication covering all modes of electronic transmission for copyright works”, with related criminal sanction
Nov 2009 5th amendment:

Numeric limits of the copying and distribution offence

18 November 2009,LegCo passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2009,which prescribed the numeric limits within which the copying and distribution offence does not apply, e.g.,  a maximum of 500 A4-size pages infringing copies of newspapers and magazines within any 14-day period
Jun 2011 6th amendment, withdrawn before voting 3 June 2011,the government introduced the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011,in which proposals included legislation of “right of communication” and “safe harbour”,raising concerns over crackdown on free speech on the Internet. The government withdrew the bill on 25 June 2012.
Phase 3:

2st attempt at amendment

with exemptions

(in dispute)

July 2013 Public consultation on parody 11 July 2013,the government launched a public consultation on the treatment of parody and others under the copyright regime,offering 3 options including “fair dealing”,whereas a “fourth option” of UGC exemption was proposed by netizen groups
June 2014 2014 bill proposed (reintroduced) 13 June 2014,the government introduced the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014,with a decision to adopt “fair dealing” exemption for parody and others, other than UGC exemption or “fair use”



  1. LegCo, Database on Particular Policy Issues – Commerce and Industry/Copyright protection, http://www.legco.gov.hk/database/english/data_ci/ci-copyright-protection.htm
  1. 《版權條例》前世今生——由1997至2015,香港獨立媒體, http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1039341
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