Changes to IP and Media Law in 2014

Happy Lunar New Year! 7 Feb 2014 is the first day we are back at work.

Here in the East, we get to celebrate New Year twice. This is the “Year of the Horse”; we will be galloping along with the myriad of changes to IP and Media Laws. These changes do not happen overnight. They are the result of work in 2013.

We are proud to say that we have contributed to developments in:

1. civil procedure commonly used to get journalists to reveal their sources; and
2. amendments to the Copyright Act on permitted uses for the visually impaired.

These are areas where Intellectual Property and Media Law meet, our forte.


Landmark Case on Confidentiality of Journalists’ Sources

“In our view …it may be difficult for WSG (“the Respondent”) to insist that its interests in confidentiality would override the wider interest in exposing corruption … In fact, it should be reiterated that there is a compelling public interest consideration ever present in Singapore to encourage whistle blowing…sunlight is the best disinfectant for corruption.” – Court of Appeal, James Dorsey v World Sports Group, 2014 SGCA 4

We appeared in Singapore’s apex court as co-Counsel to appeal against a High Court’s decision. The Court of Appeal decided in our client’s, Mr James Dorsey, favour.

This is a landmark case on pre-action proceedings against a 3rd party to divulge confidential information. In common law countries, it is known as the Norwich Pharmacal order.

The issues were heard in our Court of Appeal, for the first time.

Not only did the court clarify the principles applicable, it took the opportunity to comment on what is protectable information in the law of confidence. Corruption is not protectable as confidential information.

Cost was ordered in our client’s favour, on an indemnity basis.

Personal Data Protection Act

The 2nd phase of implementation of the Personal Data Protection Act took full effect on 2 Jan 2014. This is the “Do-Not-Call” Regime (“DNC”). It is targeted against the invasion of privacy by telemarketers.

The figures indicate the popularity of this new measure.

Registration with the DNC started on 2 Dec 2013. By 2 Jan 2013, more than 400,000 Singaporean telephone numbers have registered. What is more interesting is that 2 complaints have been lodged.

The 3rd and final phase of implementation will be compliance with the personal data protection regime of the PDPA.

We are proud to announce that we have been appointed as the firm to create and implement the personal data protection compliance system for Action for AIDS (“AFA”). Other than anonymous testing, AFA has 2 programmes which collects and use personal data. They are the referral programme and the support group programme. These are one of the most sensitive and private personal data in Singapore.


The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore has on 1 November 2013 published two Consultative Documents. They are for changes to laws relating to:

1. Geographical Indications; and
2. Copyright Fair Use for the Visually Impaired

International treaties are the catalysts for the amendments.

Copyright Act

Singapore has not signed the Marrakech Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. However, it is supportive of this treaty and the learning needs of the visually handicapped.

The amendments will expand the formats for which works can be reproduced and distributed. It will also allow exports of these copies, subject to certain conditions.

However, the amendments do not go far enough. They should include:

1. Films for subject matter which can be so used; and
2. New formats which have proven to be scientifically possible but not commercialised.

The new formats include a system which neurologically stimulates a person’s senses so that he can “see”.

Geographical Indications Act

The amendments are the result of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“EUSFTA”). Singapore needs to fulfil its treaty obligations with its trading partner.

Drastic changes will be introduced to the current geographical indications law. This is the introduction of a registration regime. Registered geographical indications will gain additional protection. There will also be tighter border enforcement measures.

The creation of a Geographical Indications Registry in the 2nd quarter of 2014 is expected.

The Act protects natural or agricultural goods, handicrafts, wines and spirits.

One wonders if mixers can be registered. On the premise that they can and there is reciprocity in protection by EU, we would like to see “Singapore Sling” being registered.

George Hwang
4 Feb 2014