Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Copyright Violations?

A friend of mine alerted me to the plight of a fellow young Malaysian who seems to be caught on the wrong side of the law, at the moment. His name is Wee Meng Chee and he's quite a creative person. Unfortunately, his creativity has caught the attention of our authorities.

I cannot read enough Chinese to fully understand such a delicate situation. So, I got my friend to translate bits of the article for me. It seems that the government is unhappy with his most recent video, entitled "Negarakuku" (video at the bottom of the blog - watch the whole thing).

According to my friend, the government is trying to pin him on copyright violations as he had used some clips from a Tourism Malaysia video. Also, the government is trying to pin him for the crime of causing a bad name for the country (WTH?). He is also being pinned for altering our national anthem, which is against the Law. So, our dear boy has gone into hiding and is currently residing overseas. He is a student in Taiwan and will possibly stay there for the near future, until the ill wind blows over.


A) With regards to copyright violations, I doubt that the government actually has a case against him. Granted, he did use clips, which were obviously professionally done by Tourism Malaysia. However, the clips have all been heavily edited and none of the clips are more than a few seconds. According to Section 8 of our Copyright Act 1987, derivative works are considered original works by themselves. The actual wording is:

(1) The following derivative works are protected as original works: (a) translations, adaptations, arrangements and other transformations of works eligible for copyright;
I would think that his re-arrangement of the original video, although of questionable taste, would possibly qualify for protection as an original work under the Act. This should squarely fall under the "fair use" category. So, our Government is probably sabre rattling again.

B) With regards to him bringing disrepute to our country, I'm not even sure if there's an actual Act that covers such a matter. But let's assume that there is. I'm quite sure that there is a line of politicians who have brought our country into disrepute, in a more serious manner, than a little itsy-bitsy music video. The music video is a passionate work, directly from the heart of a patriotic son of our motherland. You can tell that a lot of hard work and dedication had gone into it's production. It is so obviously meant to be satirical and also patriotic in nature (I laughed a lot when I watched the video and there were some parts that were truly touching as well. It's also fairly patriotic, when you look under the surface.). I would encourage our Government to get a sense of humour. Laughing it off and making a good natured joke out of it, would have been a much better response than this heavy-handedness.

C) As for him altering our National Anthem, there is a National Anthem Act, 1968 that says that there are only 3 versions of the National Anthem: Full, Abridged and Short. Presumably, this means that we cannot make changes to the Anthem. The Act makes any disrespect for the Anthem, a punishable offence. The Act also empowers the police to make arrests, without warrant, of anyone found to disrespect the Anthem. The person can then be fined up to RM 100 or jailed for no longer than 1 month. According to the act, it is not necessary to stand (show respect) for the Anthem if it is broadcast. YouTube's tagline is Broadcast Yourself. So, all Malaysians who listen to the song, without standing up, are perfectly fine (but to be safe, just stand up when u listen to the song below). So, they can only pin him on making unauthorised changes to our Anthem. I'm certain that he's not the only person who has made an unauthorised change.

I wonder if our Government knows the saying: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

PS. I wonder what our Government is doing about the steadily rising crime rate in Malaysia. I'm sure that the police have more important things to do (like solve rapes and murders) than to go around chasing down kids with too much time on their hands.

PPS. I just realised that almost everyone would've violated the National Anthem Act at some point. Just go to any secondary school during assembly and listen to the kids sing the Anthem. I'm sure that it would qualify as an unauthorised modification to our Anthem. My school used to do it a la recitativo.

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