Monday, 21 February 2011

Hong Kong opts for private enterprise whistle-blowing

David Allison (Laracy & Co., Hong Kong) has drawn my attention to this link to a recent development on his patch which, as he puts it, "raises some interesting questions". As he explains:
"Hot on the heels of various amendments to the Copyright Ordinance in 2010 (which provides for increased criminal sanctions for business end-user infringement), a press release from the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department notes that there is now a bounty payable to "whistleblowers" who inform Customs about copyright infringement in their organizations. There is a further bounty payable if the information leads to a conviction.

While the issue of employees informing on their employers is interesting in itself (surely you would only do this if you were looking to leave your current employer — unless of course you are a particularly civic-minded individual) the really interesting part is the funding of the whole scheme. It transpires that the Hong Kong Copyright Licensing Association (HKCLA) and the Hong Kong Reprographic Rights Licensing Society (HKRRLS) are funding the scheme, which is then administered by Hong Kong Customs".
David is curious to know what readers think about private licensing bodies funding the government to do their work.  He concedes that it is of course it is in the licensing bodies' best interests do take this initiative since high profile convictions would certainly increase compliance and boost the number of licences sought – but he just has a rather uneasy feeling about private funding of public enforcement.

This blogger's feeling is that, irrespective of the industry concerned and the intellectual property right infringed, the time has come for a great deal more private funding of public enforcement.  With the best will in the world, police and customs can't stem the tide of trade in infringing goods all by themselves, and importers and infringers aren't kind enough to give due notice in writing of times and dates when they are planning to infringe, together with an appended list of rights infringed.  If the rights owners in question were not those attached to the copyright-based industries but to, for example, the proprietary pharma sector seeking information on imports of fake and potentially fatal medicines, would we not applaud such initiative?

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