AmCham urges Wang to push copyright bill

Jane Rickards, TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) yesterday urged Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to push an amended Copyright Law bill through the Legislature, saying it was the most important thing Taiwan could do to improve investor confidence. A six-member AmCham delegation lead by AmCham President Andrea Wu, pushed for the passage of the bill this autumn when briefing Wang yesterday on bills the 1,000-member chamber considered crucial for improving the business climate. The chamber, which claims to represent the international business interests of some 600 companies, also warned that the island’s trade relations with the United States would be adversely affected if the amended bill was not passed in its entirety.

“From our discussions with U.S. government officials, we also know that this is something Washington is watching very closely,” said Andrea Wu.

“The fate of this bill — whether it is enacted without any dilution — will affect the progress of bilateral relations,” she said. Last year chamber members were frustrated when the Legislature was presented with a bill bringing Taiwan’s copyright laws into compliance with its World Trade Organization obligations and politicians representing vested private interests unexpectedly introduced amendments weakening its scope and enforcement mechanisms.

“The copyright law was seriously damaged and it caught everyone off guard,” said AmCham Executive Director Richard Vuylsteke, of the bill which chamber members say took Cabinet, the U.S. government, local and international businesses 15 months to come to a consensus on. Vuylsteke would not name the legislators who were behind the last-minute amendments, “Who knows what was behind it all,” he said. “But it certainly was not good for local or international businesses,” Vuylsteke said. The last-minute amendments to the bill provided numerous loopholes allowing copyright violators to get around the law — one example is a requirement that software rights holders prove that alleged software pirates had knowledge that they were breaking the law before their piracy could be considered a crime. Lawmakers last year also deleted provisions in the bill, for example removing penalties for tampering with the self-defense encryptions on optical disks known as Technical Protection Measures (TPMS). “Right now we have to put more teeth in the law and more teeth in law enforcement as right now it pays to be a pirate,” Vuylsteke added. AmCham is also opposing a new proposed amendment from a group of legislators requiring copyright holders of music or recorded works to permit use of their intellectual property by Internet service providers and receiving a government-determined compensation, saying it violated basic copyright holders private rights as defined by the Constitution and international business standards. Vuylsteke said he was confident the improved copyright law would pass when the Legislature reconvenes after the summer break — but added the chamber feared more last-minute amendments.

The team were accompanied by Economics Minister Ho Mei-yueh and Council for Economic Planning and Development Chairman Hu Sheng-cheng when they went to talk to Wang.

Vuylsteke said their presence revealed domestic and international businesses had a mutual interest in seeing Taiwan’s copyright laws improved. “It was a powerful message,” he said of their presence. “I hope the Legislative Yuan will follow the Executive Yuan’s example. The country needs a strong Legislature that takes economics seriously and passing the bill would prove it,” he said.