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Old 18-07-06, 08:10 AM   #1
JackSpratts's Avatar
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Posts: 9,987
Default Dare Violate a Copyright in Hong Kong? A Boy Scout May Be Watching Online

"Sometimes I found the Bit Torrent seeds, but it was too late and my parents urged me to go to bed. By morning I had forgotten the Web links and could not go back." - Au Yeung Ka-ho

Movie and song copiers beware: use an Internet discussion site in Hong Kong to violate copyrights and you may be turned in to law enforcement authorities by an 11-year-old Boy Scout.

Starting this summer the Hong Kong government plans to have 200,000 youths search Internet discussion sites for illegal copies of copyrighted songs and movies, and report them to the authorities. The campaign has delighted the entertainment industry, but prompted misgivings among some civil liberties advocates.

The so-called Youth Ambassadors campaign will start on Wednesday with 1,600 youths pledging their participation at a stadium in front of leading Hong Kong film and singing stars and several Hong Kong government ministers.

The Youth Ambassadors represent a new reliance on minors to keep order on the Internet. All members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and nine other uniformed youth groups here, ranging in age from 9 to 25, will be expected to participate, government officials said.

Tam Yiu-keung, the Hong Kong Excise and Customs Department’s senior superintendent of customs for intellectual property investigations, said the program should not raise any concerns about privacy or the role of children in law enforcement. The youths will be visiting Internet discussion sites that are open to all, so the government program is no different than asking young people to tell the police if they see a crime while walking down the street, he said.

Local news reports are unfair in suggesting that the government is recruiting young people to spy on others, Mr. Tam added. “We are not trying to manipulate youths and get them into the spy profession. What we are just trying to do is arouse a civic conscience to report crimes to the authorities.”

Unlike mainland China, which conducts periodic crackdowns on illegally copied movies at the insistence of Western countries, Hong Kong has a fairly good reputation for banning everything from counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags to pirated DVD’s. But the program is making some here nervous. Emily Lau, a pro-democracy lawmaker, said that the government should release more details of the program to the public for debate before proceeding, and should be particularly wary of having children report offenders to law enforcement.

“Public education I support, but to get young kids to do the reporting?” she said. “I feel uneasy about it.”

Christine Loh, the chief executive of Civic Exchange, a policy research group, said the government program would have to be managed with particular care because of its faint echoes of the Cultural Revolution in mainland China, when children were encouraged to inform on their parents and other relatives.

Youths who participated in a pilot program this spring found another problem: some of their friends thought it was uncool. “They joke with me and ask, ‘Oooh, will you arrest me?’ ” said Hung Ming-Wai, 16.

In the hope of making the program cool, the government has arranged for Wednesday’s stadium ceremony to include Stephen Fung, a film director and actor, as well as four singers popular here: Gigi Leung, Niki Chow, Wilfred Lau and Alex Fong.

Keith Bradsher

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