The last major updates to the Singapore Copyright Act were in 2004, before the era of tablets, e-readers, and smartphones. The law, which was enacted in 1987, is in urgent need of an overhaul to address the opportunities that have arisen from new technologies, and to close the loopholes that may have resulted from new ways in which copyrighted works are created, distributed, and accessed.

Last month, the Ministry of Law launched a public consultation to seek views on its proposed revisions to the copyright regime. The proposals are categorized into 16 topics: copyright registry; ownership of commissioned works; the duration of protection for unpublished works; right of attribution; relationships between creators and publishers/producers; exceptions that cannot be restricted by contracts; factors in determining fair use; orphan works; text and data mining; educational uses; libraries and archives; museums and galleries; print-disabled users; nonpatent literature; materials on official government registers; and permitted circumventions of technological protection measures.

The proposed exception to allow copying and extraction of copyrighted works for text mining and data analyses, for instance, is unlikely to be viewed favorably by rights owners and database companies. But the proposal to minimize the uncertainties on the use and access of orphan works will certainly be welcomed by libraries and museums that seek to digitize or scan old photographs, letters, and films. The legality of virtual private network (VPN) technology and its ability to bypass geoblocks—likened to parallel importing of printed books, which is allowed in Singapore—have also been thrown into the spotlight. The public consultation period ends on October 24.

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