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Malaysia doesn't need another 20 years of copyright, says CEO of software firm

This statement was originally published on eff.org on 5 August 2015.

Guest post from Dr Shawn Tan, CEO of Aeste Works, a Malaysian software and hardware engineering firm.


Reading the Copyright Act 1987 of Malaysia, the duration of protection extended to copyright holders is presently enumerated by several provisions under Part III of the Act.

The general duration of protection for literary, musical or artistic works is 50 years after the death of the author. This may be extended for posthumous publications by up to another 50 years if the work was only published well after the death of the author.

If copyright extensions were allowed, this could effectively render a work as protected under copyright for a period of more than 100 years after the death of the author. To say that such an extended period of protection is excessive for a country that is only celebrating its 58th year of independence this year, is an understatement.

To make matters worse, the law applies retrospectively and the copyright extension sought could cover published works from the early days of our nations' birth that are just coming onto public domain, keeping important memories out of the reach of our own artists and local content creators.

For instance, filmmaker and musician Pete Teo could have faced fines or incarceration for mashing up 50-year old video footage of Malaysia's independence ceremony into a new music video by digitally inserting contemporary characters into the footage, if the copyright had been extended before this.

Whenever lawmakers make proposals to strengthen intellectual property law, one of the justifications they give is that intellectual property is essential to provide an incentive for creators, particularly in the high-growth technology and services sectors. However, this is not supported by facts.

The fact that computer software is protected for 50 years after it was published is already pretty much a standing joke in the industry, given that software becomes nothing more than a historical curiosity in a fraction of that length of time. In fact, the technology industry is fast discarding the idea of intellectual property protectionism and finding that open collaboration often produces better results.

All in all, the extension of copyright duration offers nothing but additional costs and complications for Malaysian content creators and technology innovators who do not wish to see our creativity stifled by additional copyright barriers erected all around us.

Malaysia should stand firm and oppose the U.S. forcing us to change our law, to protect Hollywood's profits, and to defend us from intellectual property colonialism instead.

On EFF TPP's Copyright Trap page you can find links to more articles about how the threat of copyright term extension under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) impacts users around the world.

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