Amendments to Copyright Law in Singapore


This article is produced by CMS Holborn Asia, a Formal Law Alliance between CMS Singapore and Holborn Law LLC.

On 6 July 2021, the Copyright Bill (the “Bill”) was tabled in the Singapore Parliament.

Key changes proposed include:

  • Right to be identified: to require proper attribution to authors and performers when using a work or performance in a way that causes it to be seen in the public (e.g. by putting it online or publishing it).
  • Makers of works being the default first owners: makers of certain works will by default be the first owner of their works, even where such works are commissioned.
  • Equitable remuneration rights for sound recordings: sound recording companies will have the right to collect licence fees for the broadcast or public performance of commercially published sound recordings, and such fees may be administered and collected by collective management organisations.
  • New “permitted use” exception: where copyright works are lawfully accessed, they can be used for computation data analysis (e.g. text and data mining, training machine learning) without having to seek the permission of each copyright owner. Similarly, teachers and students may use freely available internet materials in their educational activities as long as the source is acknowledged. However, if made known that the source is infringing, they must stop using such materials.
  • Expiry date for protection of unpublished works: unpublished works will expire within either (a) 70 years after the author dies (if the author is identified within 70 years after the end of the year in which the work is made), or (b) 70 years after the end of the year in which the work is made.
  • Strengthening “fair use” permitted use: to amend “fair-dealing” to the more commonly used “fair use” term, remove the requirement to demonstrate in all cases the possibility of obtaining a work within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price.
  • Introducing a class licensing scheme for collective management organisations: collective management organisations to be regulated by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which includes requirements for collective management organisations to comply with minimum standards on transparency, governance, accountability, and efficiency.

These proposed changes will have practical implications that organisations need to be aware of. In dealing with these upcoming changes, we suggest that organisations take certain steps, including to:

  • Consider whether identification of the maker of the work, when required, is feasible from both an operational and commercial standpoint. Where it is not, organisations should obtain. Waivers must be made in writing and signed by the maker of the work.
  • Ensure there is an assignment of the maker’s rights, even for commissioned works, if the organisation wishes to own the copyright in the works.
  • Ensure that licences to sound recordings published for commercial purposes are properly obtained before the recordings are broadcast to the public. This includes ensuring that equitable remuneration is paid, failing which it may result in liability for copyright infringement.
  • Consider the applicability of the computational data analysis exception and if relying on the exception, to have in place a framework to determine whether a work intended to be used falls under such exception. For example, this exception will not be applicable if access to the work is unlawful, such as having accessed the first copy of the work by circumventing paywalls.

In addition, the creation of a collective management organisation (“CMO”) licensing scheme ensures that a standard of governance is required of the CMO, including on matters of royalties collection and distribution. A licensing scheme also ensures that an exhaustive list of CMOs is available to the public, allowing organisations to have a clearer picture of the rights held by each of the CMOs.

The date of the Second Reading of the Bill is intended to be the first available sitting in September 2021.

Please get in touch with us if you wish to understand the practical implications of this Bill to your business.