Friday 15 October 2010

Possession. Against the (Copyright) Law

The Malaysian Star reports on some public backlash to a proposed amendment to the Malaysian Copyright Act.  The amendment has been in discussion for about a year now but is not yet law.  If the new amendment is enacted, persons found in possession of infringing DVDs will be fined five times the cost of the legitimate version. (see here.)

I have been unable to locate a copy of the proposed amendment.  It appears from looking at the current act that this amendment would change Section 41(d), which currently says that it is an offense if a person “possesses, otherwise than for his private and domestic use, an infringing copy.” (emphasis added) 

The purpose of the amendment is to help limit the amount of trade in infringing DVDs, CDs, and other forms of amusement delivered in disc form, by discouraging people from purchasing them.  The general idea is that reducing the market for infringing goods will help the creative industries in Malaysia grow and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.  (For more background see MIP Handbook.)

Without having a copy of the amendment, it is hard to know what the real consequences of the change could be.  For example, if the punishment is a fine but the person has to be seen with the infringing disc in public, then it might be considered a reasonable step towards lowering infringement. However, if Section 44 of the Copyright Act will apply to the offense of possession as it does to all other offences, there may be a bigger issue.  Section 44 allows a magistrate to grant a warrant that allows the police to enter suspected premises at any time and seize infringing materials. 

Based on the information in the Star article, details like whether Section 44 will apply are still being worked out.  Concern about potential police raids of private homes was not the comment from the Malaysian people.  Some are worried that the government is acting out of desperation, while others claim the producers of infringing goods should be the target rather than the consumers.  (In all fairness, the Copyright Act does already include making and distribution as offenses and reports of successful factory raids have appeared in the papers.)

In addition to knowing whether Section 44 applies, one might also wonder, “Can consumers distinguish an infringing copy from a legitimate one?” and “Do people know where they can purchase legitimate copies?”  In some places, like Nigeria, the answers to these questions are often “no.”  If that’s the case in Malaysia, how will enforcement of this amendment work?

grand champion

Which is the original? Image credit: CC BY NC SA 2.5 Malaysia by Yihzy available at

If anyone has a copy of the amendment or knows more about the relationship between infringing and legitimate DVDs in Malaysia, The 1709 Blog would love to hear from you.

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