Proposed changes to Singapore's Copyright Act may aid artists

Seasoned photographer Wesley Loh is among those who are hopeful that proposed changes to the Copyright Act will push commercial photography to the next level.

Now, lensmen who receive payment to take photographs do not own the copyright to their works by default; it belongs first to the person who paid for the pictures.

The proposed changes, however, aim to make photographers the default copyright owner of the works they create, which is the case for creators of most other types of works such as literary writings.

Mr Loh, 45, director of the photography company Memphis West Pictures, says: "If the copyright belongs to photographers, their sense of ownership will be stronger and they will more likely make works that push the limits of creativity."

He adds that if the change is effected, photographers may also earn more because they can reuse the pictures for different occasions.

This move, to grant default ownership to creators of certain types of commissioned work, is one of 16 proposals made by the Ministry of Law and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore in a review of Singapore's copyright laws.

The Copyright Act was enacted in 1987 with major additions last made in 2004.

A public consultation of these proposed changes is underway and a town hall briefing will be held tomorrow afternoon.

Other proposals include establishing a voluntary copyright registration system to help people to establish ownership of their works, and providing information such as templates for copyright-related contracts.

Another proposed change also seeks to allow copyrighted works to be copied for the purposes of text and data mining and analysis.

Artist Yeo Shih Yun, 39, who once had her paintings reproduced in an advertisement without proper attribution, says that the proposal will allow creators to more easily assert their right to attribution.

She says: "The change will allow artists to be rightly credited and increase awareness overall about the intellectual property and rights of artists."

•The town hall briefing on proposed changes to the Copyright Act will be held tomorrow from 2 to 4pm at the auditorium of The Treasury at 100 High Street.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Proposed changes to Copyright Act may aid artists'. Subscribe