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Copyright Context in Hong Kong

What is Copyright?

In Hong Kong copyright is a private property rights that gives exclusive rights to the author/creator of an original work to do the following acts:

  1. to copy the work;
  2. to issue copies of the work to the public (publishing);
  3. to rent copies of the work to the public;
  4. to make available copies of the work to the public on the Internet;
  5. to perform, show or play the work in public;
  6. to broadcast the work or include it in a cable programme service;
  7. to make an adaptation (e.g. translating a work or altering a computer program) of the work.

It is governed by the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) and the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is an umbrella term that covers a group of separate intangible property rights including copyright plus others such as  trademarks, patents, designs, plant varieties and the layout design of integrated circuits.  Details can be referred to

What is the difference between copyright and patent and trademark?

Copyright protects the expression of ideas of the author/creator, not the underlying ideas. A patent protects invention of the patent owner. A trademark protects words (including personal names), indications, designs, letters, characters, numerals, figurative elements, colors, sounds, smells, the shape of the goods or their packaging or any combination of these that distinguish goods and services of one trader from those of others.

Copyright does not require registration, it is automatic. Patents and trademarks require formal registration to obtain the rights.

What does copyright protect?

Hong Kong’s Copyright Ordinance protects creativity and the expression of ideas in a work, but not the underlying ideas. There are 9 categories of works, including works transmitted over Internet, radio, television, that are copyright-protected:

  1. Literary works such as books and computer software
  2. Dramatic works such as plays
  3. Musical works such as musical compositions
  4. Artistic works such as drawings, paintings, and sculptures
  5. Sound recordings
  6. Films
  7. Broadcasts
  8. Cable programmes
  9. Typographical arrangement of published editions of literary, dramatic or musical works, as well as performers’ performances.

Copyright applies to all works even if they originate outside Hong Kong. Copyright is automatic, no formal registration is required to claim copyright, and it can be licensed/assigned to another party.  Details can be referred to

What isn’t protected by copyright?

Copyright protects the authorship of an original work including the skills and labour of an author. Therefore, the following is not protected:

  1. Works which are trivial or involve little skill and labour of an author such as titles, names, and short phrases
  2. Mere ideas in a work
  3. Works in public domain.

Who owns copyright?

The author of a work owns the copyright. If it is a joint work, then all the joint authors own the copyright.

If a work is created in the course of his employment, his employer is the first copyright owner subject to any agreement to the contrary. Please refer details to the copyright context and policies at CUHK.

For commissioned works, the ownership of copyright depends on the agreement between the parties.

Details refer to the Who is the owner at

How long does copyright last?

Copyright is time limited, and in Hong Kong how long copyright lasts depends on the format of the work, but in most cases it will last for 50 years after the death of the author/creator.

Copyright Exemption – Fair Dealing

In Hong Kong, there are some exceptions in the Copyright Ordinance, such as fair dealing, that allow some copying for educational establishments.  There are no prescribed percentages on what can be copied; however this is not a blanket license to copy. Educational establishments are permitted to copy by a teacher or a student to a reasonable extent artistic works or passages from published literary, dramatic, or musical works, or recording of broadcast or cable programmes, in a fair manner for the purposes of giving or receiving instruction. In deciding what constitutes a fair manner, the court shall take into account all the circumstances, in particular:

  • the purpose and nature of the dealing, including whether such dealing is for non-profit making purpose and whether it is of a commercial nature;
  • the nature of the work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion dealt with in relation to the work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the copying on the potential market for or value of the work.

To enjoy “fair dealing” exemption, you must properly acknowledge the title and authorship of the work and deal with the work in a fair manner. Examples of what would be considered fair or unfair for dealing with a copyrighted work can be found at

Subject to the above conditions, copying for research and private study is permitted. Copying a work for the purpose of setting or answering examination questions is also permissible, except for musical works for use in performance by a candidate. However the minimum amount of copied material required to set the question should be used.

It should be noted that a qualitative rather than a quantitative approach will be adopted in assessing whether there has been substantial taking; so the copying of a substantial part of the original work, albeit not of a significant proportion of the work, may still fall outside the fair dealing exception and thereby constitute an infringement of copyright.

Hong Kong’s Copyright-Related Ordinances

Hong Kong’s copyright laws has a lot of implications on educational institutions. The following covers all the related ordinance, regulations and guidelines relating to the practice of copyright in educational sector.

Copyright Context and Policies at CUHK

In the CUHK Policy on Intellectual Property (para. 5), copyright over materials produced by staff members in the course of the University’s employment or with the use of University equipment, facilities or other resources belongs to CUHK.

Responsibility for any infringement of copyright rests with the person making the copy. Although the University has a responsibility to ensure that staff and students are aware of copyright and comply with the law, it remains the responsibility of the person making the copy to ensure they do not infringe copyright. Details of all the University’s Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights guidance can be found at

Creators will defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the University and/or its licensees against all claims, suits, costs, damages, and expenses that the University and/or its licensees may sustain by reason of any scandalous, libelous, or unlawful matter contained or alleged to be contained in the Work or any infringement or violation by the Work of any copyright or property right.

The following is the list of copyright policies and guidelines applicable across the campus:

Library Guidelines

The library has derived a number of guidelines to specify in what ways the Library complies with the prevailing copyright laws of Hong Kong in the course of handling print and electronic resources, excessive downloading, photocopying, and digitization.