Copyright Issues in Asia

By Princess Fatimah Tariq

300 years back, in 1709 copyright law was introduced to protect a form or way an idea was expressed. The law protects original musical, literary, artistic or dramatic works (Australian Government, 2009). However, with the arrival of new media i.e. the Internet, copyright laws changed. Many Asian countries became stricter with their laws and practices in regards to the copyright Act. China, India, Pakistan, Thailand and Indonesia were amongst the top countries in The U.S Top Piracy List 2009 (Chinaren, 2009). And the Internet was/is blamed to be a major stakeholder in promoting piracy.

With the arrival of the Internet, a new level of openness and transparency has been introduced. As stated by the Managing Editor of Global Voices Online, Solana Larsen, it is time to rethink the laws of copyright.

According to an article by VOA News in December 2009, some of the key reasons why people infringe copyright laws in Asian countries are that they cannot afford to pay for original materials, rising computer sales, faster internet speed and strict censorship of music and movies encourage people to use the internet to acquire materials they want. In addition, many computer users have become ignorant to copyright laws while surfing the Internet and this has resulted in a rise in piracy (Laput, 2009).

The rate of piracy of copyrighted material has been steadily rising throughout Asia in the past 10 years. This is mainly because there has been a rise in Internet users. Law enforcements have played a major role in reducing piracy yet it is nowhere close to finding a solution that drastically reduces the rate of piracy of copyrighted materials. The most recent attempt to prevent people from copyrighting is the implementation of the “three strike” law. A number of countries throughout the world including South Korea and Taiwan have lately adopted this law that cuts of the Internet access of users who have received three warnings for bridging copyright rules through the Internet. Singapore too is expected to implement this law if research findings give the country a green light (Lemon, 2009).

Many developed and developing Asian countries have also heavily invested in security to detect copyright infringers. This includes providing capital for buying software that uncover illegal files downloaded on personal computer, police force and copyright campaigns. According to the China Daily, China launched a four-month copyright protection campaign in September 2006 that resulted in filing 172 copyright cases which included 28 major cases involving music, books, movies, games and software shared illegally or sold through the internet. 76 websites were also shutdown during that campaign (Haunxin, 2006).

The implementation of the copyright law has had a major impact on many digital media industries and other professions, both in a negative and positive way.

Strict copyright law enforcements have helped to recover lost revenue due to copyright infringements. For example, Software developers lose millions of dollars in sales when Internet users download pirated, unlicensed softwares (Laput, 2009).

However, the Copyright Act has been giving Search engines a hard time. Industries such as Google have been repeated accused of encouraging piracy, which in return is not giving artists they’re full right. A talk by Karl Fogel, author of the book The Promise of a Post-Copyright World, addressed the mentioned issue and claims that search engines do not affect the artist to that an extent as it has been exaggerated. It is as easy to copy an artist’s work on the Internet, as it is to trace the owner of the original work. In fact, the Internet has allowed such Media industries to be healthier now then they have ever been (Fogel, 2006). The works of journalism are being read more now than ever before, music artists are able to reach a broader audience that before, and movies are able to be viewed by more people throughout the world.

Strict Copyright laws could also be seen as a hindrance that blocks people from being creative, by not allowing potential artists to learn from published materials and develop their piece of work. Copyright becomes an obstacle that scares people to learn from the past materials be it a musical, a book, an art or even a published idea. This is because people are scared that they would be fined a ridiculous amount if they took ideas from a piece of work that is easily accessible through the Internet and enhance upon it to originate a new piece of work.


Australian Government. (2009). Copyright. Available: Last accessed 05 May 2010.

Chinaren, D. (2009). Top 10 Copyright Piracy Nations. Available: Last accessed 05 May 2010.

Fogel, K. (2006). The Surprising History of Copyright and What It Means For Google. Available: Last accessed 07 May 2010.

Huanxin, Z. (2006). China to improve copyright protection. Available: Last accessed 05 May 2010.

Jones, B. (1998). Software Piracy and the Global Economy. In: – Economic Reform Today. -: Mangement Focus. p24-26.

Laput, P. (2009). Software Piracy in Asia Expands. Available: Last accessed 05 May 2010.

Lemon, S. (2009). Report: Singapore considers ‘three strikes’ anti-piracy law. Available: Last accessed 05 May 2010.



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