The Key Changes to Singapore New Copyright Law

The Copyright Bill (“the Bill”) which seeks to repeal and replace the current Copyright Act was tabled in Parliament for first reading on 6th July 2021. The Bill is expected to be enacted into law in November 2021.

The Bill will update and enhance the copyright system to take into account technological advancements which have greatly affected how copyright works are created, distributed, accessed and utilised.

Let’s look into the major changes that are introduced through the Bill.

Right to be identified

Any user who uses a work or performance in a way that causes it to be seen in the public (e.g. by sharing it online or publishing it) must identify its creator or performer in a clear and reasonably prominent manner that the creator or performer wishes to be identified.

The current position under the Copyright Act 1987 do not grant the creators or performers the right to be attributed to their works, they merely have the right to prevent false identification where their works or performances have been falsely attributed as the creation of someone else.

Default ownership in certain types commissioned works

Under the Bill, the copyright ownership for commissioned works such as photographs, portraits, engravings, sound recordings, and films belongs to the creators by default, unless it is stated otherwise in the commissioning contract.

Prohibiting individuals from benefitting off devices or services relating to audio-visual content from unauthorised sources

This new provision aims to encourage consumption of copyright works from legitimate sources. Copyright owners will be able to bring legal action against anyone who knowingly engages in commercial dealings with devices or services which have limited commercially significant purpose or usage besides facilitating access to copyright infringing works.

New equitable remuneration rights for sound recordings

A new right will be granted to sound recording companies to collect licence fees for the broadcast or public performance of commercially published sound recordings and such fees may be administered and collected by collective management organisations (CMOs). Businesses will have to acquire a licence for the public performance of the sound recordings to play the recorded music in a physical venue.

However this right does not arise in situations where:
– the public performance of the sound recording constitutes fair use
– the sound recording is played through a broadcast (playing music through the radio)
– in the course of an educational institution’s activities, the sound recording is performed in by students or staff of the institution to an audience limited to those directly connected with that institution.

Strengthening the general “fair use” exception

The current “fair dealing” exception shall be reworded to a more general term “fair use”. A requirement under the current law to demonstrate in every situation, the possibility of obtaining the work within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price will be removed. However, this factor can still be taken into account where it is relevant.

New exception for educational uses by non-profit institutions

This new exception allows non-profit educational institutions to use resources or materials from the internet for educational purposes. The material must be accessible to the public free of charge, cited and be given sufficient acknowledgement of the internet source.

The user should not know that the material is a copyright infringing work, he shall stop using such material and take reasonable steps to prevent any further usage if he is informed that the material is a copyright infringing work.

New exception for uses of works for computational data analysis

A new exception to copyright infringement where it permits the use of copyright works for the purpose of computational data analysis only (e.g. text and data mining and training machine learning). The user must have lawful access to the works and the work used must not be an infringing copy.

Expiry date for protection of unpublished works

The current law gives perpetual copyright protection to unpublished works. Under the Bill, all works, whether published or unpublished, will have limited duration of copyright protection.

The duration are as follows:
– unpublished authorial works will be protected for 70 years from the death of the author
– films and anonymous or pseudonymous works will be protected for 70 years after the end of the year in which the work is made

Implementing a new class licensing scheme for collective management organisations

The CMOs will be administered and regulated by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) to ensure there is compliance by CMOs with minimum standards on transparency, good governance, accountability and efficiency. CMOs will be subject to class licence conditions and financial penalties may be imposed to them if the conditions are breached. Written directions and cessation orders may also be issued by IPOS.

The Bill has introduced these changes to provide more rights, recognition and remedies to the creators of works. It further creates new exceptions to ensure the copyright works remain reasonably accessible to the public for the benefit of society at large. These changes ensure Singapore’s copyright regime continues to provide an environment that benefits both creators and users.