With the spotlight on Taiwan's protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) after it was placed on the US Trade Representative's Special 301 Priority Watch List of serious IPR violators once again last week, government officials and technology firms are continuing to walk a tightrope between individual and corporate rights.
"It is possible that sometimes in protecting the rights of copyright holders the legislature can step on the rights of individuals," Chang Chung-hsin (章中信), a specialist in the copyright department of the government's Intellectual Property Office, told the Taipei Times yesterday.
"But we also have to respect the rights of individuals and work together with industry and law-makers to make sure we get the right balance," Chang said.
On the one hand there are those that create. Copyright holders in the movie and music industries are opposed to individuals making any copies of the video-compact disks (VCDs), CDs and DVDs they buy.
"Individuals should not be allowed to make copies [of our products] illegally," said Tu Ming (涂銘), managing director of Twentieth Century Fox Taiwan.
"They should contact Twentieth Century Fox to get permission to make a copy for individual use," Tu said.
Since the advent of Sony Corp's home video-tape recorder in 1964, the movie industry has been struggling to make copying machines illegal.
"The entertainment industry doesn't really want any copies made," said Jeffrey Harris, co-chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei's Intellectual Property Committee and director of Orient Commercial Enquiries, a consulting firm specializing in IPR.
"Each time a new technology comes along they try to take people to court to stop it. They took action against the video recorder, and now they are doing the same with DVD copiers," Harris said.
US-based 321 Studios, developers of the first software on the market that allowed users to make "flawless" copies of DVD disks -- including movies -- is locked in a legal battle with the movie industry.
The software complies with Fair Use regulations, 321 Studios says. The company's software violates the US' 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, industry representatives counter.
On the other side of the table are those who say the right to make copies of legally purchased products for personal use has been enshrined in the US' Fair Use Act.
Taping TV programs, making a compilation CD, making back-up copies of software are all protected by the act.
Taiwan has modeled its own Copyright Law (
"The burden of proof is with the individual, but in general making copies to make money is an infringement of the law," Harris said.
Special interest groups in this country have protested amendments to the Copyright Law that will make it easier to arrest infrin-gers, saying the changes were designed to protect powerful US lobby groups such as the movie, music and software industries.
Students demanded that they be exempt from prosecution for copying textbooks and software, and some legislators have even raised the idea in the Legislative Yuan only to have it shot down.
"The students' requests were totally unreasonable," Chang said. "They pay for accommodation and for services on campus. Why should they be able to copy textbooks and software without paying?"