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Justin Santiago, BAppSc (Hons), MBA, LLB (Hons) comes from a journalism, market research, intellectual property and strategic communications consulting background. Now based in Melbourne he spends his time advising businesses on how to communicate to their customers as well as writing on various subjects of interest in this blog.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is reposting an article illegal?

I am facing an interesting conundrum as I copy and paste No free lunch, an article about Singapore's nonchalant attitude towards downloading written by Grace Chng, on my blog. The article was published on asiaone.com, the online portal owned and managed by Singapore Press Holding (SPH), the media head honcho in Singapore. Did the post infringe copyright?

Let's go back to first principles. The article qualifies as a literary work (albeit in digital format) and is the property of SPH and will be protected by copyright. This gives SPH the right to prevent others from copying or reproducing the article. SPH could write to me and tell me to remove the work from the blog because it is a copy, republished without permission.

I could however fall back on what is known as the fair dealing exceptions which allows me to use the work for non-commercial purposes which includes research and study as well as teaching which is what I hope to achieve through this post.

No free lunch?

by Grace Chng, asiaone.com, April 25, 2009

TWO days after the movie Slumdog Millionaire swept awards at the Oscar's in February, one smart teenager - her mother told me - had downloaded the movie.

She did not think twice that it might be intellectual theft because the movie had been posted via a YouTube-like site, waiting to be downloaded.

The teenager's attitude probably reflects those of other people here: Last week's report in The Straits Times on Online Piracy: Many Feel No Social Stigma, said that almost every Singaporean knows that downloading movies and music is illegal but it will not stop them from doing so.

The survey, commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), found that while Singaporeans understood the need to respect intellectual property (IP), their actions left little to be desired.

In today's download-happy culture, getting things for free seems to be a given. That, and the bravado of being able to beat the system and get away with it, as well as the bragging rights to 'I saw it first' or 'I've played that game' long before a movie hits the screens or the game hits the shops, are the likely motivations of IP theft.

Worse, downloading sites like The Pirate Bay and RapidShare leave the doors wide open for people to load up on music and movies.

The Pirate Bay, for example, is the world's most high-profile file-sharing website, said the BBC last week. In February alone, 22 million simultaneous users registered with it.

To be sure, content owners are not sitting still. The site is being sued in Sweden by content owners there like Sony and Warner Brothers for IP theft.

The site's founders seem nonchalant about the suit, going by media reports. They consider themselves digital libertarians advancing the course of availing everything on the Internet for free.

Its founders were jailed by a Swedish court last week but the file-swapping site is still active.

Singapore's public education tack, to create greater awareness of the importance of IP rights protection, seems to be working. The IPOS survey results showed that awareness of IP theft was a little higher than two years' ago when the first survey was done. Authorities in other countries have wielded a tougher stick.

Last year in England, the British Phonographic Industry and telco cum media firm Virgin Media wrote to warn customers whose Internet link could have been used to download unlicensed content. In France, the government has threatened to cut off the Internet accounts of file-sharers.

But trying to completely outlaw piracy seemed like a losing battle, and music labels and movie houses decided to 'join' the rivals with legitimate online stores which allow customers to pick, choose and pay for what they want.

In Singapore, there is the more than 10-year-old Soundbuzz online music store. Vendors like Nokia and Sony Ericsson recently trotted out special handsets which are sold with bundled music from their respective online stores.

Admittedly, the content industry took too long to respond when file-sharing site Napster, which was started 10 years ago, began to chip away at its business model by letting people download content illegally. Mindsets about getting things for free over the Internet have been ingrained in peoples' minds.

Expect a long fight between the digital libertarians represented by the file-swappers and the content industry and authorities who say there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The twain shall ne'er meet.


1 comment:

  1. ‘Fair Dealing Exceptions’ suggests ‘reciprocity’, in that, it strikes an equitable balance between user and owner. The balance is upset if unwarranted comments are directed to the post, writer or owner and given the ownership of SPH, the balance may be upset if, say, a thorny commentary about Singapore’s treatment of its Opposition is hosted on this blog.


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