(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The DAP will propose six amendments to the Computer Crimes Bill, including the deletion of Section 8 on statutory presumption which criminalises the majority of computer users in the country.
The Computer Crimes Bill will create a statutory presumption in Section 8 where any person having custody or control of any program, data or other information when he is not authorised to have it will be deemed to have obtained unauthorised access unless it is proven otherwise.
The section criminalises the majority of the computer users in the country - including government officials, MPs, Ministers and journalists or their children who use computers.
Although the Computer Crimes Bill had been tabled in Parliament for a month, there had been no explanation whatsoever either from the Attorney-General’s Chambers or the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts as to what is the rationale for having a section which criminalises the majority of the computer users in the country.
At a time when the Internet has been described as the world’s biggest copying machine where anything from music to software can be duplicated and distributed at the click of the mouse, such a section to criminalise the majority of the computer users in the country will be a major setback to popularise both Information Technology consciousness and usage among Malaysians.
Under the existing Copyright Act 1987, which provides for copyright offences with maximum penalty of RM25,000 fine, three years’ jail or both, "any person who has in his possession, custody or control three or more infringing copies of a work in the same form shall, unless the contrary is proved, be presumed to be in possession of or to import such copies otherwise than for private or domestic use".
In other words, the Copyright Act allows any person to have less than three copies of any infringing work without make him liable to the criminal penalties under the Act. What the government should have done is to amend the Copyright Act to adapt to the great technological changes in information technology where it is so easy especially in the age of increasing multiple-computer ownership to have three or more copies of an infringing work although they are meant for private or domestic use.
However, under the Computer Crimes Bill, a person who has in his computer or retrieved from any computer even one infringing work would be guilty of the even more serious offence of unauthorised access to computer material with the very severe penalties of RM50,000 fine, five years’ jail or both.
Why should Malaysia have such a Computer Crimes Bill which criminalises the majority of the computer users of the country and nullified the protection of "fair use" provided in the Copyright for private or domestic use of any infringing work
The DAP will propose the removal of Section 8 unless the Attorney-General’s Chambers or the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts can give cogent and convincing reasons as to why Malaysia should have such a statutory presumption to criminalise the majority of the computers users in the country - a provision that is not known to be found in the computer crime legislation of any other country.