A rally against the controversial new copyright bill known as “Internet Article 23” will kick off at 4:00pm on Wednesday afternoon.
Organized by internet freedom advocacy group Keyboard Frontline, the planned protest will take place in the Legislative Council demonstration area as the second reading of the bill is expected to start. The group expects around one thousand people to join the demonstration.
Localist group Hong Kong Indigenous will also participate using “black bloc” tactics, urging protesters to wear dark-coloured jackets, face masks and trousers in order to conceal their identities.
The controversial bill has faced major opposition from local netizens who worry that using copyrighted works—even if just for personal use and not for profit—could lead to a criminal investigation. Opponents to the bill have also raised concerns that new amendments could make it an offence to live stream game-playing and to screen-cap television programmes or movies.
LegCo’s debate of the bill was delayed last Wednesday following an unexpected adjournment due to lack of quorum in the chamber.
Some pan-democrat lawmakers including Gary Fan Kwok-wai, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Ray Chan Chi-chuen and Raymond Wong Yuk-man will continue their filibuster in the hope of delaying the start of the debate.
The pro-democracy camp has proposed three major amendments to the bill, which they hope will include “user-generated content”, “contract override” and “fair use” provisions to protect netizens. However, the amendments are unlikely to pass due to lack of supporting votes.
A “contract override” provision would override the contractual terms imposed by copyright owners to prohibit derivative works which were within the bill’s six exempted proposes of use: namely “parody”, “satire”, “pastiche”, “caricature”, “quotation” or “reporting or commenting on current events”.
Allowances for “fair use” have also been proposed to protect non-profit personal derivative works.
Hong Kong Copyright Alliance spokesperson Lam Yuk-wah, a support of the bill, said on an RTHK programme on Wednesday that the six exemptions provided would be a “steel shield” to protect netizens from civil lawsuits and criminal investigations.
He added that the current copyright law has lagged behind international standards for some ten years.
Keyboard Frontline spokesperson Glacier Kwong Chung-ching has disagreed with Lam’s arguments, however.
“The six exemptions cannot cover many usages [of copyrighted works], such as live stream game-playing or song covering,” Kwong said. “It has been said that copyright owners would not file lawsuits, but it was written in the bill that it would be a copyright infringement.”
“It could also be a criminal offense, and you would not know when the government will decide to prosecute you… it is a possibility that innocent people would be prosecuted,” Kwong said.
Pro-democracy lawmakers as well as some members of the pro-Beijing camp lawmakers—principally the Liberal Party—will support an adjournment of the debate motion.
However, Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan said that the motion may not receive enough votes to pass.
Politicians from pro-Beijing parties have urged the government to withdraw the controversial new copyright bill, and start consultations anew.
Police are also investigating the rubbish bin blast that took place at the Legislative Council demonstration area last Wednesday after a rally planned against the bill was cancelled.
A police source said it believed a group with a localist background may be involved, RTHK reported.
Some ten officers will be deployed around LegCo to patrol while a maximum of 600 officers will be deployed from the Hong Kong Island Regional Headquarters and New Territories South Regional Police Headquarters if emergencies occur, a source told the broadcaster.
Localist groups are generally pro-democracy but many consider pro-democracy activists and pan-democrats within the legislature to be ineffective. The camp is also tied with various movements related to the expansion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, for example advocating for city-state status or outright independence.