Proposed Changes to the Singapore Copyright Act – Enhancing Creators’ Rights and Users’ Access to Copyrighted Works

On 17 January 2019, the Singapore Ministry of Law and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore issued the Singapore Copyright Review Report (the Report), which proposes a number of important amendments to the Singapore Copyright Act (the CA), following several rounds of public consultations in 2016 and 2017.

The objective of the proposed amendments is to ensure that the Singapore copyright regime keeps abreast of technological developments which have significantly changed how creative works are created, distributed and consumed. In this regard, the proposed amendments seek to enhance creators’ rights and users’ access to copyrighted works.

This note summarises the key proposed amendments in the Report.

The key proposed changes that would strengthen creators’ rights are as follows:

1. Default ownership of commissioned works
Currently, where certain works are commissioned, the commissioning party is the default copyright owner. The Report proposes that the creators of creative works shall have first ownership of commissioned work unless agreed otherwise.

2. New right of attribution for authors and performers
At present, authors and performers do not have a right to be attributed under the CA. The Report proposes that authors and performers be attributed when their work or performance is used by others. However, this right will not be applied to certain works and performances such as a computer programme or work created in the course of employment.

The key proposed changes that would improve users’ access to copyrighted works are:

1. New educational use exception
Teaching methods have evolved beyond the use of traditional standardised textbooks and workbooks. The use of digital tools and online materials such as publications, blogs and videos by educational institutions to teach is now commonplace.

The Report proposes a new purpose-based exception for educational uses by non-profit educational institutions that will apply to online work that is accessible without the need of payment at the time of access.

2. New text and data mining exception
As the initial phases of text and data mining generally involves extracting or copying data from materials which may be protected by copyright, text and data mining risks infringing on the copyright in these materials.

The Report proposes a new exception in the CA which allows copying of copyrighted works for the purposes of data analysis to support the growth of the data analytics and big data business sector. However, the user of the work must have had legitimate access to the work in the first place. Simply copying without analysis would not be safe under the new exception.

3. New exception relating to galleries, libraries, archives and museums
The Report proposes a new exception to allow museums and non-profit galleries, non-profit libraries and non-profit archives to make copies or perform audio-visual materials for the purposes of exhibition if such materials are in the permanent collection of the institution. Copies of items may also be made for the purpose of inclusion in exhibition related publicity materials.

Other proposals in the Report include:

1. New class licensing scheme for collective management organisations (CMOs)
The Report proposes to introduce a class licensing scheme for CMOs, which are unregulated today. The new scheme aims to help creators who want to license their work and users who need cost-effective access to works by facilitating copyright licensing transactions efficiently. Any CMOs in Singapore will be automatically subject to this scheme which will be administered by IPOS. Further details on the licensing scheme and license conditions will be announced at a later date.

2. Enforcement measures against unauthorised access to content
During the 2016 public consultation period, it was concluded that there was and is a prevalence of set-top boxes that enables access to audio-visual content from unauthorised sources, often outside Singapore. However, copyright owners are unable to take any enforcement measures against the manufacturers, importers, distributors or retailers of such set-top boxes as these do not contain infringing content per se.

The Report proposes that new legislative provisions will be introduced to impose civil and criminal liability on people who willfully make, import for sale, commercially distribute or sell such set-top boxes or any other products that similarly enable access to audio-visual content from unauthorised sources.

The proposed amendments to the CA will bring the Singapore copyright regime more aligned with the realities of creation, distribution and consumption of content in the present digital landscape.

Creators can look forward to enhanced protection of their rights under the new CA which will encourage creators to showcase and commercialise their creative works. This will in turn help creators to build their reputation and incentivise the creation of new works.

The proposed new exceptions under the CA would give non-profit educational institutions, non-profit libraries, non-profit galleries, museums and data analytics businesses the assurance to use copyrighted materials under certain conditions where previously these users might have refrained from doing so due to concerns regarding permissible use of these copyrighted works. Improved access to copyrighted works would allow the public to benefit from the enjoyment of copyrighted works and the development of new and emerging digital technologies.

Content creators, copyright owners and users should continue to closely monitor the legislative changes. If you would like to discuss how you can leverage on the benefits of the proposed changes to the CA, we at K&L Gates would be happy to assist you.

By Tan Xin Ya

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