About Copyright Law

Motion pictures and other audiovisual works that are available for rental or purchase are intended for personal, private use only. If you wish to show the work in any other place, you must have a separate license that specifically authorizes the public performance of that work.

These rules are detailed in Hong Kong's Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528).

  • According to the Copyright Ordinance, only the copyright owner holds the exclusive right, among others, “to perform, show or play the work in public.” (section 22)
  • The rental or purchase of a motion picture or other audiovisual work does not provide the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly. (section 25)
  • Films and audiovisual programs may be shown without a license at an educational establishment for the purposed of “giving or receiving instruction” because the Ordinance provides a limited exception for such showings. (section 43(2)).  However, the Intellectual Property Department has explicitly cautioned that such establishments require appropriate licenses for showings undertaken by those establishments for fundraising events, functions to which the public can be admitted, or for entertainment purposes.
  • Virtually all other public performances of motion pictures and other audiovisual works are infringing unless they have been authorized by license. Even performances in ‘semipublic’ places such as clubs, lodges, factories, hospitals, and churches are ‘public performances’ subject to compliance with the Copyright Ordinance.

Non-compliance with the Copyright Ordinance is considered infringement and carries significant penalties for both the exhibitor and anyone that contributes to the infringing conduct. Unlicensed public performances are remediable by way of damages, injunctions, and accountings. (section 107)