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Key Changes in Singapore’s new Copyright Bill

The Second Reading of Singapore’s new Copyright Bill (“Draft Bill”) has been tabled for September 2021. The Draft Bill is set to replace the current Copyright Act (Cap. 60, Rev. Ed. 2006), which has been in force for fifteen years. In particular, it appears that the Draft Bill allows for stronger copyright protection for creators/performers of copyright works. We set out some of the key amendments in the Draft Bill as follows:

1. Right to be identified

The new right to be identified allows creators and performers to be actively attributed with the creation of their work, which means that anyone who uses a copyright work must necessarily identify the creator of the work clearly and prominently. This strengthens the copyright regime in favour of creators and performers, who previously only had the right to prevent the false attribution of another party as the creator/performer of their copyright works.

2. Default first ownership of copyright in some commissioned works

With this change, creators of commissioned works will by default be the first owner of copyright, even if they were commissioned to make those works. However, this right may be contracted out of by the commissioning parties. This strengthens the copyright regime in favour of creators of commissioned works. However, it must be noted that an exception to this default first ownership continues to apply with respect to the commissioning of certain works (photographs, portraits, engravings, sound recordings or films), and works created by employees or journalist-employees.

3. Commercial dealings with devices or services relating to audio-visual content from illegal set-top boxes

This new right seeks to encourage consumption of copyright works from legitimate sources. For instance, copyright owners are now able to directly sue anyone who knowingly engages in commercial dealings (e.g. sell, offer for sale, distribute for trade etc) with devices or services (such as set-top boxes or software applications), which have the commercially significant purpose of facilitating access to copyright infringing works. In fact, telecommunications services in Singapore are currently encouraging the use of legal set-top boxes by providing discounts for new customers who give up their illegal set-top boxes in exchange for the legal set-top boxes.

4. Right to collect license fees for commercially published sound recordings

Sound recording companies now have a new right under the Draft Bill to collect license fees for commercially published sound recordings. This may also be done through Collective Management Organisations (“CMOs”).

5. Right to use copyright works for computational data analysis

Text and data mining exceptions to copyright has existed in the United Kingdom since 2014. This new right under the Draft Bill provides for a similar right. The Draft Bill also provides that this statutory right cannot be limited by contract.

6. Expiry date for protection of unpublished works

The Draft Bill also allows for copyright protection for unpublished works as follows:

a. unpublished authorial works (i.e. works with known authors) will be protected for 70 years after the author dies (if the author is identified within 70 years after the end of the year in which the work is made), and
b. films and anonymous or pseudonymous works will be protected for 70 years after the end of the year in which the work is made.
This amendment allows for more coherence in the copyright regime, which had previously given perpetual copyright protection to unpublished works, but limited the period of copyright protection for published works.

The Draft Bill makes for exciting reading amongst copyright practitioners as it clearly seeks to modernise and update our copyright regime in accordance with the needs of owners of copyright works. The Bill is expected to come into force in late 2021 and will no doubt have a strong impact on the development of copyright law in Singapore.