Copyright Bill to strengthen and update Singapore’s copyright regime passed
23 September 2021
On 13 September 2021, the Copyright Bill (“Bill”) was read the second time and passed in Parliament. Tabled for first reading in Parliament on 6 July 2021, the Bill seeks to repeal and replace the current Copyright Act. The Bill strengthens the copyright regime in Singapore by updating the Copyright Act to stay abreast of changes in how content is now created, distributed, and used. The Bill will also restructure and reword the legislation in plain English, to enhance its clarity and accessibility.
In the second reading speech on the Bill, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, SC (“Minister”) mentioned that the majority of the provisions in the Bill are expected to come into force in November 2021. The provisions on the licensing of collective management organisations (“CMOs”) will be implemented later, after further consultation next year.
New changes in the Bill
The Minister highlighted the following new changes under the Bill in the second reading speech:
Provisions benefitting creators and rights owners
- Granting authors and performers the right to be identified: The Bill provides that anyone who uses authorial works or protected performances in public must identify the author or performer. For example, a person must identify the author of a photograph whenever the person shares the photograph online or on a social media platform. While the Bill provides for exceptions where identification is not needed, parties can also use contractual arrangements to manage their obligations to identify the author or performer. Nevertheless, users must still identify the author or performer even if the user owns the copyright in the work, as this new right of identification is separate from the economic rights relating to copyright. Authors and performers can enforce this new right by civil means, via injunctions and damages. As such, parties who do not wish to identify the author or performer of the works when they communicate the works to the public must contractually agree with the author/performer to absolve themselves of this obligation and should do so before the work is created or performed.
- Granting creators default ownership of certain commissioned works: The new Bill establishes that creators of all forms of commissioned works (e.g. photographs, portraits, engravings, sound recordings and films) will have default ownership of their works. For example, a photographer hired to take photos at an event would by default own the copyright to those photos he or she took. If a party wishes to obtain the copyright in such commissioned photographs, the party should obtain a prospective assignment of the said copyright from the photographer before the photos are taken as the photographer is not compellable to assign the copyright.
- Deterring people from profiting off products or services which stream audio-visual content from unauthorised sources: Commercial dealers in hardware devices, software applications and services that facilitate access to unauthorised content will face civil and criminal liability under the Bill. The new provisions, which are technologically neutral, do not impose liability on consumers and users of the hardware devices, software applications or services.
Provisions benefitting users and society
- New permitted use of works and recordings of protected performances for computational data analysis: The Bill allows the commercial/non-commercial use of works and recordings of protected performances for computational data analysis. For example, parties who seek to train artificial intelligence programmes using copyrighted materials or use computers to analyse copyrighted materials, can do so without needing to seek permissions from the relevant copyright owner, as long as the copyrighted materials are used only for the purpose of computational data analysis. Further, the user must have lawfully accessed the relevant materials, for example, he or she should not have accessed the materials by circumventing a paywall.
- New permitted use of internet materials for educational purposes by non-profit schools: The Bill creates a new permitted use of internet materials, that are generally accessible to the public for free, for educational activities, including home-based teaching and learning conducted by non-profit educational institutions. There must be sufficient acknowledgement of the internet source and the work or performance used.
- Adjusting existing provisions for users with print disabilities: Division 4 of Part 5 of the Bill modifies the permitted uses relating to persons with print disabilities, to remove the obligation to pay fees to the rights owner when conversions are made and distributed.
Provisions strengthening the copyright ecosystem
- New class licensing scheme for CMOs: CMOs are private organisations that represent groups of rights owners to grant licences to users. Currently, the Copyright Act does not regulate CMOs operating in Singapore. The Bill creates a new class licensing scheme that sets minimum standards for how CMOs should operate. The CMO class licensing scheme will be administered by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) and will address issues of transparency, governance, accountability and efficiency. IPOS will be vested with powers to set licence conditions, investigate contraventions of licence conditions, and also impose penalties for non-compliance. Moving forward, prospective users of copyrighted works will be able to verify with IPOS whether a CMO is licensed to operate in Singapore.
- Rationalisation of criminal offences: The Bill will rationalise and update the existing criminal offences relating to works and protected performances.
For more on the key changes in the Bill, please refer to our article titled “Copyright Bill introduced in Parliament to strengthen Singapore’s copyright regime”.
Cross-references of each provision in the Bill to its corresponding provision in the current Copyright Act are available in the Annexure which was distributed in Parliament during the Minister’s speech.