Video rental shops may be requiredto pay licence fees for the first time in Hong Kong under government plans to extend copyright laws.

The Hong Kong government proposedthe reforms, after a public consultation last December.

The introduction of rental rightswould be highly significant for the film industry, meaning copyrightowners could demand fees from video shops. The changes could also provide civilremedies against violation of such rights.

The new proposal has been welcomed by most copyright holders groups. Motion Picture Industry Association(MPIA) chief executive Woody Tsung says, "Copyright owners deserve to be paidfor their work. We've been asking for such rights for the past two years."

The proposal, if introduced, isexpected to have a positive impact on the revenues of both the theatrical andhome video markets, as licence fees will drive rental prices up. Movie rentalsare low in Hong Kong - some only charge a cut-throat price of HK$5.

Tsung also calls for the need tobuild a new business model for rental rights that is feasible for all parties,including rental shops and copyright owners and distributors.

The government has also acknowledgedthe need to review the Copyright Ordinance for stronger copyright protection onthe Internet.

Four related issues have beenhighlighted: whether a technologically neutral right of communication should beintroduced for copyright owners; how to facilitate copyright owners to takecivil action against infringing activities on the Internet; whether statutorydamages for civil infringements should be introduced; and the role of Internetservice providers in the fight against Internet piracy.

A public consultation on onlinepiracy will be conducted towards the end of the year.