Hong Kong Customs has participated in a cross-industry seminar to familiarize the copyright industry with the effect of the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2007 relating to criminal enforcement against illegal parallel imports.

Parallel imported copies of copyright works are genuine copies that are originally made and destined for a market outside Hong Kong, but are subsequently imported into Hong Kong without the consent of the copyright owner. Under the Copyright Ordinance, any person who commits an offense mentioned is liable to a fine of HK$50,000 per infringing copy and four years' imprisonment.

The head of Hong Kong's Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, Ben Ho, said, "With the legislative amendments, Customs enforcement capability against illegal parallel imports will be enhanced."

Under the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2007, which came into force on July 6, 2007, the criminal sanction period for parallel imports has been shortened from 18 months to 15 months.

Under the amended Copyright Ordinance, it is a criminal offence to sell, hire or distribute for profit parallel imported copies of any copyright work, except computer software products. It is also illegal to mport parallel imported copies of any copyright work, except computer software products, for dealing in the copies; or import or possess parallel imported copies of movies, television dramas, musical sound recordings or musical visual recordings for playing or showing in public if such acts are done within 15 months from the date the copyright work was first published anywhere in the world.

The legislative amendments facilitate criminal enforcement by introducing some presumptions to prove an element of offense that the copy in question is an imported copy. For instance, if there is shown on the label or packaging of the copy an indication that the distribution or sale of the copy was restricted to a place outside Hong Kong, the copy is presumed to be an imported copy. Also, a copy stored in an optical disc not bearing a Hong Kong licensed manufacturer's code is presumed to be an imported copy.

Another facilitative measure introduced by the legislative amendment is to allow the use of affidavit evidence by the copyright owner to prove that the parallel imported copy in question is not allowed to be distributed or sold in Hong Kong. This affidavit evidence on the restriction of territorial rights for parallel imports can alleviate the burden on the copyright owners, in particular those located overseas, to attend court in person.

"Hong Kong Customs will co-operate closely and actively with the copyright industry in taking enforcement action into complaints of copyright infringement which involve illegal parallel imports of copyright works," Ho said.

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