Bread & Kaya: 2018 Malaysia Cyber-Law And IT Cases – Cyber-Defamation


By Foong Cheng Leong
April 26, 2019

  • In cyber-defamation cases, the High Court has granted damages between RM50K to RM100K
  • Court assumes that you have published something if it originates from your email, Facebook, etc

IN THIS second, of a four-part series, I will talk about the rise of cyber-defamation. The number of cyber-related tort cases filed in the Kuala Lumpur High Court in 2018 increased to 60 over from over 50 cases. Most of these cases were related to cyber-defamation.

The Court dealt with numerous defamatory online postings that went viral. In these cases, the High Court has granted damages between RM50,000 to RM100,000.

In Datuk May Phng @ Cho Mai Sum & 2 Ors v Tan Pei Pei [2018] 4 AMR 784, HC, the High Court was tasked to assess the damages to be granted to the Plaintiff against the Defendant for publishing defamatory statements in an email to at least four recipients.

It was not disputed that the said email has been circulated among the public via the internet to as many people as possible and the Defendant invited the recipients to read and spread its contents as widely as possible.

The Court held that the said e-mail was not an ordinary email directed to one person, but the said e-mail was written in the context to address the public, to have the said e-mail widely circulated among the public. Therefore, the Court was of the view that the said e-mail had been widely circulated and/or presumed to be so.

The Defendant’s attempt to prove that the e-mail was sent only to the four individuals named therein or five individuals as a whole as contemplated by the Plaintiffs does not change the scenario or fact that such publication in the internet via email is deemed to be wide circulation because the Defendant intended the wide circulation of the said e-mail based on her statements in the said e-mail where the Defendant requested the public to circulate the said e-mail.

The Court held that it is practically impossible to prove exactly to whom the said e-mail had been circulated, there is a presumption by law that such circulation over the internet is presumed to be wide publication and the onus is on the Defendant to prove the limited publication as alleged.

The High Court granted RM80,000 as general damages.

In Mohamed Hafiz Mohamed Nordin v Eric Paulsen and Another Appeal (Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. W-02(NCVC)(W)-1668-08/2017), the Plaintiff filed an action against the Defendant for defamation arising from an article published on the internet via the website of Portal Islam & Melayu at www.ismaweb.net which went viral on social media.

The Plaintiff is the executive director of ‘Lawyers for Liberty’, a human rights lawyers’ non-governmental organisation, and a well-known human rights lawyer and activist in Malaysia.

The Defendant is a member of the Pertubuhan Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), a non-governmental organisation established in 1997. Isma’s main focus is Islamic propagation in the country.

The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant had uttered a defamatory statement which was published in an article entitled “Jangan Biar Eric Paulsen bebas tanpa perbicaraan” on www.ismaweb.net.

The High Court found that the Plaintiff had failed to prove that the impugned statement was defamatory as he had failed to prove that his reputation has been adversely affected and tainted. The High Court also dismissed the Defendant’s defence of justification and fair comment.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the impugned statement is derogatory, calculated to incite hatred and anger amongst the multi-religious groups and ethnicity in Malaysia.

The impugned statement not only described the Plaintiff as a fraudster, a liar who incites hatred of the Islamic religion, but also as a person funded and supported by foreign entities, such as the United States of America and the European Union.

In their natural and ordinary meaning, impugned statement meant and was understood to mean by reasonable and ordinary readers of the article that the Plaintiff is anti–Islam. Therefore, taking the bane and the antidote of the article published the defamatory statement had only one purpose, that is, to tarnish the plaintiff’s character and reputation.

The Court of Appeal granted damages of RM100,000.00.

In Mohd Khaidir Ahmad v. Mohd Iqbal Zainal Abidin [2018] 1 LNS 1150, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision in finding the Defendant liable for defaming the Plaintiff on his Facebook page.

The Defendant had alleged that the Plaintiff, an Assistant District Officer of Temerloh, had abused his power and was corrupt, among others. One of the Facebook postings had an uploaded photograph of the Plaintiff, his son and car together with defamatory statements.

The Facebook postings attracted responses, negative ones at that, on his Facebook page. The allegation of abuse of power and corruption appeared to resonate with the netizens who posted their comments, generally agreeing with the same.

The Defendant denied that the words were defamatory of the Plaintiff, that they were fair comments and disclaimed responsibility for the negative comments by the netizens.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision in dismissing the Defendant’s defence and also upheld the damages of RM50,000 granted by the High Court. The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court that the Defendant failed to prove that the Plaintiff had received bribes, and rejected the defence of qualified privilege as the postings were made without there being a duty to do so for they were done for his own interest, not that of the public.

Pre-action discovery – Finding out who defamed you

A pre-action discovery application is an action filed in Court against parties who are in possession of information of a wrongdoer. In usual cases, such an action is filed against a website operator, whose users had published defamatory comments, to divulge the identity of their user.

This is what had happened in the case of Kopitiam Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd v Modern Outlook Sdn Bhd[2018] MLJU 1450. The Plaintiff filed a pre-action discovery application against the three Defendants after it discovered a defamatory article relating to it on the websites connected to the Defendants. The Plaintiff stated that it intends to file an action for slander of goods against certain parties and required particulars of the said parties from the Defendants.

The 1st Defendant is a company dealing with activities related to payment and to up services via the internet portal industry. The 2nd Defendant is a company providing website registration services. The 3rd Defendant is the provider of the server where the website where the defamatory article was placed.

The 2nd Defendant did not object to the application subject to the information to be released being confined to only information in their possession and/or the release of the said information is within the ambit of law in particular the Personal Data Protection Act 2010.

The High Court granted the order against the 1st and 3rd Defendant as the Plaintiff had indeed stated the material facts pertaining to the intended proceedings which relates to a cause of action for slander of goods. They have also identified the persons against whom the order is sought and is likely to be a party in the subsequent proceedings in the High Court apart from specifying and describing the documents needed.

Other than a website operator, the High Court held that a domain name reseller can be compelled to divulge information of their customer.

In Nik Elin Zurina Binti Nik Abdul Rashid v Mesra.net Sdn Bhd (Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No. WA-24NCvC-179-02/2018) (Unreported), the Plaintiff sought a pre-action discovery order against the Defendant, who was a reseller of Mynic Berhad, the sole administrator for web addresses that end with .my in Malaysia. The Defendant had assisted in the registration of the domain name Menara.my and the Plaintiff claims that Menara.my had defamed her through a few articles. The Plaintiff wanted the Defendant to divulge the identity of the owner, operator and registrant of the domain name.

The High Court allowed the Plaintiff’s application and ordered the Defendant to divulge the identity of the owner of the website.

Interlocutory injunction – Stopping a person immediately

An interlocutory injunction is an order restraining a person from doing an act pending the disposal of the matter in trial. A trial date is usually fixed a few months after a legal suit is filed. If a person wants a tortfeasor to stop publishing further defamatory statements immediately pending the disposal of the matter in trial, he can file such an application with the Court.

Any person who does not adhere to a Court order can be cited for contempt. In Maria Faridah Atienza v. Hadijah Mohamaed Mokhtar & Anor [2018] 3 CLJ 655, the High Court fined the 1st Defendant RM30,000 and sentenced the 1st Defendant to prison for two weeks after she had failed to pay the fine. The Defendant breached the Court’s injunctive order restraining her from making or publishing any statement against the Plaintiff. She had done so by publishing certain statements on her Instagram account.

In Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak v Tony Pua Kiam Wee (Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No. WA-23CY-17-04/2017), the Plaintiff, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, sued the Defendant, a member of Parliament of Malaysia, for defamation. The Defendant had allegedly uttered and published defamatory statements on a live video which was published as a post entitled “BN Govt abandons all Bills to give precedence to PAS RUU355 Private Member’s Bills” on his Facebook account. 

The Facebook post went viral with 82,434 video views. The Defendant has 310,256 Facebook followers. The Plaintiff also filed an application was interlocutory injunction to stop the Defendant from uttering or publishing the defamatory statement.

The High Court granted the said application and held that the Defendant did not deny that he had published those alleged statements, and such statements are indeed defamatory.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal in Tony Pua Kiam Wee v Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak [2018] 3 CLJ 522 upheld the High Court’s decision.

[Edit: 29 April 2019 – Leave to appeal to the Federal Court (Civil Appeal No. 08(i)-107-03/2018(W)) has been granted for the following questions-

(i) Whether the test for an interim injunction in defamation proceedings laid down in The News Straits Times Press (M) Bhd v Airasia Bhd [1987] 1 MLJ 36 is good law given the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10(1)(a), Federal Constitution?

(ii) Whether in light of Article 10(1)(a), Federal Constitution, an application for an interim injunction in defamation proceedings to restrain the further publication of impugned statements must be dismissed where the defendant has:

(a) pleaded and particularized the defences of justification and fair comment on matters of public interest in his Defence; and/or

(b) stated, on oath, his belief as to the truth of the impugned statement, and his ability and willingness to justify the impugned statement?

(iii) Whether the fact that the Speaker of the House of Representatives had ex facie exercised powers under the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat, precludes the entitlement of a plaintiff to establish at trial, the fact that the exercise of such powers was not bona fide, in private law proceedings that refer to such exercise of power?

(iv) Whether a court is entitled in private Jaw proceedings to treat the fact of the Attorney General not having commenced prosecution under Article 145(3), Federal Constitution and/or the explanation for such decision as exonerating the impugned conduct, and such as to allow the court to further conclude by way of judicial notice under section 56, Evidence Act 1950 that no wrongdoing was committed?

Electronic evidence

Presumption of publication – Court assumes that you’ve published it

In Thong King Chai v. Ho Khar Fun [2018] 1 LNS 374, the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for defaming him via email and a closed Facebook Group.

In determining whether the statements were published, the High Court applied the presumption of publication under s. 114A of the Evidence Act 1950. The High Court held that pursuant to s. 114A, the presumption of fact is that the email was published by the Defendant as it had originated from his email address. Similarly, there is also a presumption of fact that the Facebook posting was published by the Defendant through his Facebook account.

The High Court also applied the presumption of fact raising a prima facie inference that postcards and telegrams, in the ordinary course of events, have been published to third parties unless the Defendant proves otherwise (as held in the case of Matchplan (M) Sdn Bhd & Anor v. William D Sinrich & Anor [2004] 2 MLJ 424). Applying the decision in Matchplan to the internet age of publication by email and Facebook, the High Court found that the email and the Facebook posting were published to the persons named in the email’s address list and cc list and also to the persons who had access to the Facebook Group. The Defendant did not provide any evidence to rebut this presumption of fact.

However, the High Court dismissed the action on the ground that the statements were not capable of bearing defamatory meaning and are in fact not defamatory of the Plaintiff. Even if the statements are defamatory of the Plaintiff, the Defendant would be able to rely on the defence of justification and/or the defence of fair comment.

Admissibility of Screenshots

In Norazlanshah Bin Hazal v Mohd Dziehan Bin Mustapha (Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No. WA-23CY-14-03/2017), the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for defaming him on Facebook.

The Defendant disputed the authenticity of the screenshots which contained the alleged defamatory Facebook posting. However, the learned Judicial Commissioner refused to admit the screenshots as evidence as no evidence was led as to the maker of the contents of these screenshots and none were called to testify, no testimony as to how the screenshots were produced although there as admission that the documents were computer generated and no attempt to admit those screenshots under s. 90A of the Evidence Act 1950.

Part 3 which focuses on cyber-crime cases and other cyber offences will be published on May 3.

First published on Digital News Asia on 26 April 2019

Bread & Kaya: 2018 Malaysia Cyber-Law And IT Cases – Fake News, Private Information & Instant Messaging

THE change of Government after the 14th General Election saw changes to our sphere of cyber and IT laws. The new Government withdrew numerous charges under s.233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, especially against those who had allegedly spoke against the previous Government.

The Anti-Fake News Act 2018 that was introduced before the 14th General Election was quickly shipped away by the House of Representatives via The Anti-Fake News (Repeal) Bill 2018, but was thwarted by the Senate. One person has been charged and sentenced under this Act.

There has also been an array of interesting cyber- and IT-related cases in our Courts.

An employee was dismissed from his job as his conduct could amount to sexual grooming under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017. His action was recorded and featured in an undercover expose by the Star newspaper team of journalists know as The STAR R.AGE Team.

We saw the first decision on the liability of online service providers i.e whether they are liable for trademark infringement for the sale and advertisement of their Merchants’ products published on their website.

We also saw a greater adoption of the electronic service of Court documents. In 30 Maple Sdn Bhd v Noor Farah Kamilah Binti Che Ibrahim (Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No: WA-22IP-50-12/2017), the Intellectual Property High Court granted an application to serve a Writ and Statement of Claim via email and WhatsApp messenger after it could not locate the Defendant at her last known address.

Traditionally, when a Defendant cannot be located, a Plaintiff would normally ask the Court to allow a notice relating to the lawsuit to be published in the newspaper, among others. The current Rules of Court 2012 does not expressly recognise the electronic service of Court documents notwithstanding that people are more mobile these days. Furthermore, the chance of being able to communicate with someone online is much higher than in person.

PKR communications director and Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Fahmi Fadzil’s civil suit against the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and Nuemera (M) Sdn Bhd (Ahmad Fahmi Bin Mohamed Fadzil v Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia & Anor (Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court Suit No. WA-A52-2-02/2018)) for allegedly failing to protect his personal data which resulted in the leakage of his personal data together with the personal information of 46.2 million mobile subscribers has now been settled. This was one of Malaysians’ biggest data leaks. However, the terms of settlement were not disclosed.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit by Nuemera (M) Sdn Bhd against Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (Nuemera (M) Sdn Bhd v Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission(Kuala Lumpur High Court Originating Summons No. WA-24NCC(ARB)-14-04/2018)) over its suspension of their services to the Commission due to the data leakage is pending before the Court of Appeal (Civil Appeal No. W-01(NCC)(A)-318-05/2018). The details of the lawsuit are unknown as the Court documents have been sealed by the Court.

I will summarise all these over four articles as part of my yearly tradition of what happened in the preceding year.

Anti-Fake News Act 2018 – Taking down fake news

The Anti-Fake News Act 2018 was quickly passed by the previous Government prior to the 14th General Election.

According to the explanatory note of the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, the law was introduced to seek to deal with fake news by providing for certain offences and measures to curb the dissemination of fake news and to provide for related matters. As technology advances with time, the dissemination of fake news becomes a global concern and more serious in that it affects the public.

The Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring that the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected. The provision on the power of the Court to make an order to remove any publication containing fake news serves as a measure to deal with the misuse of the publication medium, in particular social media platforms. With the Act, it is hoped that the public will be more responsible and cautious in sharing news and information.

S.4 of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 makes it is an offence for any person who, by any means, maliciously creates, offers, publishes, prints, distributes, circulates or disseminates any fake news or publication containing fake news.

“Fake news” is defined as any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.

It was reported that one Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman was charged and punished under s. 4(1) of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018, which carries a punishment of up to six years in prison and a fine of up to RM500,000, for maliciously publishing fake news in the form of a YouTube video under the user name Salah Sulaiman. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a week’s jail and fined RM10,000.

Online news portal, Malaysiakini.com, tried to challenge the constitutionality of the Act but failed in the High Court. In Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd v Kerajaan Malaysia & Anor (Kuala Lumpur Judicial Review Application No. WA-25-111-04/2018), Justice Azizah Nawawi held that the application should be dismissed as neither Malaysiakini nor its reporters had been charged under the law. She allowed the objection by the Government to refuse the leave application as the applicant is not adversely affected and the action is premature. Malaysiakini appealed to the Court of Appeal (Civil Appeal No. W-01(A)-399-06/2018) but the appeal was subsequently withdrawn.

As soon as Pakatan Harapan took over the Government, the Anti-Fake News (Repeal) Bill 2018 was introduced to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018. The explanatory note of the Bill stated that fake news may be dealt with under existing laws such as the Penal Code, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. As such, the Act is no longer relevant. The House of Representatives passed the said Bill. However, the Senate rejected the Bill. As of the date of this article, the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 still stands.

Family disputes

Private Information – Leaked nudes

As video recording and photography become easily accessible, our Courts are now stating to deal with electronic files containing intimate and/or private materials.

In Datuk Wira S.M Faisal Bin SM Nasimuddin Kamal v Datin Wira Emilia Binti Hanafi & 4 Ors[2018] 7 CLJ 290, the 1st Defendant, the ex-wife of the Plaintiff, had taken into possession mobile phones and USB Flash Drives belonging to the Plaintiff. It was alleged that one of the flash drives contains files which featured intimate and/or private audio-visuals.

The Plaintiff sued the 1st Defendant and her other family members for the return of the devices. The High Court held that there had been no denial that the devices belonged to the Plaintiff. In view of the aforesaid, the High Court ordered the return of the devices.

In M v S (Joint Petitioners) (Sabah and Sarawak High Court), the High Court had to deal with the expungement of nude pictures allegedly of the wife. The husband and wife were fighting over the custody of their children. Custody was earlier granted to the husband and the wife applied to vary the custody order.  

In opposing the application, the husband exhibited in his affidavit nude photographs of the wife taken from her computer and hand phone without her consent and stated she is a “wild woman” and an unfit mother. The wife applied to expunge several paragraphs and related nude pictures in the said affidavit under Order 41 Rule 6 of the Rules of Court 2012.

The High Court found that the wife did not release the pictures into the public domain. She had stored them privately in her hand phone and laptop computer. It is the husband who accessed them without her permission and gave access to others including law firm staff and court staff by exhibiting them in the affidavit in opposition without any sort of censoring whatever.

Thus, the exhibition of the said pictures of the wife in the affidavit in opposition was a gratuitous and malicious act to embarrass and humiliate her. The exhibition of the uncensored pictures in the husband’s affidavit was therefore scandalous and oppressive. Under these premises, the discretionary power vested in the court under Order 41 rule 6 of the Rules of Court 2012 should come to the aid of the wife.

The High Court also held that, in this day and age, private intimate photographs of a person stored in the computer or handphone should not suggest that person in question is immoral or an unfit parent.

Instant messaging – “WhatsApping” your children

In Lee Chui Si v Teh Yaw Poh (Sabah & Sarawak High Court Divorce Petition No. KCH-33JP-234/7-2017), the High Court found ways to soften the blow of a divorce by introducing the use of electronic messaging. The husband and wife fought over the custody of their children but two of their children do not wish to see their father.

Nevertheless, the learned Judge was of the view that a window of opportunity should be left open for the father to make amends to his two children. As such, in lieu of physical access, access to their father can be given by way of communicating with them via mobile phones (WhatsApp, phone calls, SMS or WeChat). In view of the present strained relationship between the two children and their father, the communication between them should be limited in the early stage and the Judge limited it to one phone call not exceeding ten minutes and two text messages a week. If the said two children respond and feel comfortable with communicating with their father, the number of phone calls and texting can be more than what the court has decreed.

Part 2 which focuses on cyber-defamation will be published on April 26

First published on Digital New Asia on 19 April 2019.

BFM Podcast: PROTECTING OUR PRIVACY

Gobind Singh Deo, Minister of Communications and Multimedia will consider reviewing the 9 year old Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) at the “Impact of EU-GDPR in Malaysia and Non-EU Countries”conference.

The act was formulated back in 2010 and since, there has been a lot of development in the area of privacy and data protection.

We speak to Foong Cheng Leong, who’s part of the Malaysian Bar committee on data protection.

Presented by: Lyn Mak, Sharidz Abdullah and Julian Ng


Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.


BFM Podcast: THE DAILY DIGEST: TAKING DOWN PATRIOT ACT


Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.


The Bigger Picture team kicks off a new daily show, where we discuss current issues – both local and global – that have been thoughtfully curated by the team. Netflix has taken down an episode of its comedy show “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj”, in Saudi Arabia, after officials from the kingdom complained. The move has sparked criticism, and leads to questions about how streaming platforms will handle censorship.

Produced by: Sharmilla Ganesan
Presented by: Sharmilla Ganesan, Tee Shiao Eek and Tina Carmillia

Top 5 Steps To Protecting Your Music

By Cheng Leong Foong, Rachel Fung
13 March, 2019

As the Internet continues to transform the landscape of the music industry, its players have to navigate and find their place in it.

While the age of the Internet has brought new and exciting ways for musicians to reach wider audiences for example through music streaming or sharing sites, it has also brought its own set of problems such as online piracy and widespread unlicensed use of music. It is in this environment that any artist needs now more than ever to understand how they can take charge of and better protect their work. This article seeks to share the intellectual property laws that are important for any artist to know and more importantly, the practical steps you can take to protect your music in Malaysia.

1.Protect your copyright
This is the most basic and important area of law for an artist. Copyright exerts your ownership over your creation and it is what gives you the host of exclusive rights you have over your music, such as performance, reproduction and distribution of it. There are two main types of copyright in music. The first is the composition copyright which protects the melody and lyrics of a song and belongs to composers, lyricists and publishers. The second type is the sound recording copyright. This protects the recording itself that has been made of a piece of music and usually belongs to the performers and maker of a recording. Be clear on which copyright you are dealing with and what belongs to you.

An interesting point to note is that copyright in fact comes into existence upon the time of creation of your work without you having done anything further. However, your creation must be in a tangible form such as sheet music, lyrics you have written down or a sound recording. Hence an idea in your head or even a freestyle live performance cannot be copyrighted.

Further, even though copyright exists upon creation, should you be faced with any dispute over the ownership of your work in the future, proving that you have the copyright in the work is another matter. There are a number of simple ways you can be prepared for this.

In Malaysia, the best and preferred method is to simply notify the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) of your copyright. This is a lot simpler than it may first seem and is also a more secure method for if you ever have to prove your copyright before a court of law. All it involves is filling up a form called Form CR-1, making a statutory declaration that you are the owner and/or author of the work and details of the work, and depositing a copy of the work with MyIPO. MyIPO’s website (www.myipo.gov.my) is very helpful in this respect as it provides samples of the form and statutory declaration needed and even has an easy to follow flowchart of the process. Application costs are reasonable with fees starting from RM35 for an application.

Another alternative method is called the poor man’s copyright. This involves placing into an envelope a sample of your created work, sealing it, and mailing it to yourself using registered mail. The key is not to open the mail when you receive it and to keep your proof of postage. This mail package then becomes proof that you created a particular work at a particular time.

The modern day version of this would be uploading your music to a website such as Facebook, YouTube or Bandcamp as your uploads would carry date-stamps.

2.Make trade marks work for you
While copyright law involves the protection of creative works, trade marks are more to do with your branding. Trade mark protection refers to the protection of a sign, word or phrase which helps to distinguish your goods from those of another. Trade marks will thus likely be most relevant to music artists in respect of band names or logos and particularly with regards to merchandise. Think the Rolling Stone’s tongue and lip logo. According to a recent poll, this legendary logo is now the most iconic T-shirt design of all time.

When first coming up with a band name, it may be worth checking to see if a possible name you have in mind is already listed or not on the WIPO trade mark database. This is to ensure that you do not pick a name or logo which is identical or similar to that of another music artist and hopefully avoid the possibility of any trade mark infringement troubles in the future.

If you are at the stage of considering to expand into merchandise with a band name or logo printed on it, then you may wish to consider registering your band name or logo as trade marks. Registering logos or names as trade marks however is a more expensive and complicated process than registering copyrights. Hence it is advisable to seek some legal advice in this respect to find out what is the best option for your situation.

3.Become a member of a music licensing society (hello royalties!)
Music licensing societies help to license the use of music and provide royalties to their members when their music is played, performed or broadcasted in any way. In Malaysia, the sole licensing body is now Music Rights Malaysia (MRM), which then distributes the fees and royalties collected to its member bodies such as Music Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP), Recording Performers Malaysia Berhad (RPM) and Public Performance Malaysia (PPM). Thus composers, lyricists and publishers should still sign up for membership with MACP, while recording artists can sign up with RPM. MACP and RPM membership forms can be downloaded from their websites respectively.

4.Spell things out
As with any relationship, communication and setting things out clearly is important. You can think of this step as a “music pre-nup”. Where a piece of work is a group effort, have a talk with your co-authors to establish which part of it they own. An easy example would be in a lyricist and composer duo where the lyricist owns the copyright in the lyrics written and the composer owns the composition. If you are thinking of signing to a recording company, spell out clearly your rights in your music. Thus in the (hopefully unlikely!) event of an Oasis-level breakup, knowing your rights and positions clearly can help prevent future copyright squabbles.

5. Talk to an intellectual property lawyer
Finally, where you still have questions on your intellectual property rights or what is the best option for you, have a chat with a lawyer. Besides advising or assisting you on the steps above, a good lawyer can also help check through any contracts that you may sign with a recording company for example to ensure that your rights are protected.

In the mean time, keep making music and remember to protect it well!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR(S)

Foong Cheng Leong is an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya and also a registered Malaysian trade mark, industrial designs and patent agent. He is the author of the book, Compendium of Malaysian Intellectual Property Cases. He also writes at www.foongchengleong.com.

Rachel Fung graduated from King’s College London with a Law LLB, where she first developed an interest in intellectual property law. She is called to the Bar of England and Wales and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. She is currently chambering at the boutique IP firm, Foong Cheng Leong & Co.

First published on Music Press Asia on 8 March 2019.

Tomorrow’s law today: More legal firms embracing tech than before

Image Credit: AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

The FCL&Co Case Law Search App was featured in the The Star Newspaper.

Another firm to have jumped on board the bandwagon is Foong Cheng Leong and Co with its FCL&CO Case Law Search app which catalogues some 12,000 cases.

Unlike most law libraries, the app is free, making it a significant resource for boutique and single-owner firms which may not be able to afford subscription-based libraries that are costly.

The firm’s namesake and founder, Foong Cheng Leong, says the app was built in collaboration with another company.

He says that technology which enables lawyers to work more efficiently is a bigger priority than solutions for the public such as lawyer matching services, and tech companies should consult lawyers to grasp what the industry actually needs.

“The industry is still at its infancy, but newcomers may need to go through the Bar Council hurdle to see if they are in contravention of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976,” he opines.

The LPA defines acceptable conduct and business practices for lawyers, and violating it can result in members being fined or even disbarred.

Read more at The Star Online

Introduction of Legal Technology Provision in the new Malaysian Legal Profession Act

The Bar Council recently submitted the draft of the new Legal Profession Act to the Attorney General. The new Act seeks to account for developing trends and technological innovation in the legal profession and also seeks to introduce provisions with the aim of being a fully self-governing Bar.

The new Act was drafted by the Committee to Reform the Legal Sector with the assistance of various working groups. I was appointed to assist Working Group 13 to draft the provision for “Legal Technology” which is now s. 35 of the new Act.

S. 35 of the new Act provides the following-

Legal technology

(1) For the purposes of this section:

“legal technology” means any technological product or service used or to be used in the provision of any service or any act which is within any function or responsibility of any advocate and solicitor, or places at the disposal of any other person the services of an advocate and solicitor;

“legal technology provider” means any person or entity that provides legal technology;

(2) The Bar Council may make rules and rulings for the regulation of any legal technology or legal technology provider, taking into account the promotion of technological innovations, public interest and the interests of members of the Malaysian Bar.

(3) The Bar Council shall have the power to exempt any legal technology or legal technology provider from any rules and rulings of the Bar Council and from section 33, with or without any condition, as may be deemed fit by the Bar Council from time to time.

(4) Any contravention of this section by any legal technology provider, shall result in the revocation of any approval or any exemption granted by the Bar Council.

(5) The Bar Council shall have the power to conduct any inquiry to identify or determine any contravention referred to in subsection (4), and may apply to the High Court by way of originating summons, to compel any person or entity to produce any document for the purpose of the inquiry.

(6) Where the Bar Council concludes that there has been a contravention of this section, the Bar Council shall have the power to apply to the High Court –

(a) for an order to restrain the legal technology provider from providing its product, service or solution;
(b) for an order to compel the relevant authority to disclose any further relevant information related to the contravention; and
(c) for an order to compel the relevant authority to restrain or limit access to such legal technological providers that contravene subsection (2).

(7) Any person or entity who contravenes subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand ringgit and where such person or entity is an advocate and solicitor or limited liability law partnership, he or it shall also be liable to disciplinary proceedings under Part XI.

S. 35 seeks to regulate the provision of legal technology by legal technology service provider. It is noted that no approval is required to provide any legal technology or legal technology provider technology services unless Bar Council makes rules and rulings for it.

There had been proposal to introduce provision to require legal technology service provider to register itself with Bar Council before it can provide legal technology services. Fortunately, this provision was not introduced as it would stifle innovation. Businesses would be discouraged from creating any innovation for the legal profession if the barrier to entry is high or uncertain. Furthermore, certain technologies like accounting software are catered to all industries and not only legal industry. It would be difficult for the technology provider to divide itself between non-legal technology and legal technology.

There are two (2) parts to the definition of the term “legal technology”. Legal technology is defined as any technological product or service used or to be used-
(1) in the provision of any service or any act which is within any function or responsibility of any advocate and solicitor, or
(2) places at the disposal of any other person the services of an advocate and solicitor.

The first part basically covers all forms of legal technology used by an advocate and solicitor, whether in a form of a hardware and software, and could include legal information platform, artificial intelligence, accounting, software, mobile payment etc.

The second part basically covers lawyer-client matching service. Lawyer-client matching service is currently prohibited by s. 37 of the Legal Profession Act 1976. Lawyer matching service providers, Burgielaw and CanLaw were prohibited by the Bar Council to provide such services with a fee as it amounts to touting.

With the new s. 35(2) and (3), matching service may again be provided but with Bar Council’s approval.

Disclaimer: The views above are purely my personal views. They are not the official view or intent of the Bar Council.

‘Hunt’ for critics of monarchy: So what does the law say about ‘doxing’?

I was interviewed by the Malay Mail regarding the issue of “doxing”.

“Doxing” or “doxxing”, in my opinion, is the act of harvesting and publication of personal information of a person on the Internet often with the intention to, among others, annoy, harass, humiliate, insult, threaten, intimidate, or punish the identified individual. Such personal information may be publicly available or private information. They include full name, identity card number, pictures, home or work address, contact number and email.

The act of doxing may be as a result of the act of the victim himself. Often the victim was recorded acting negatively (such as video of a road rage) and such record had gone viral on the Internet.

The act of doxing will usually result with emotional distress to the victim as the victim will be subject to annoy, harass, humiliate, insult, threaten or intimidate by that person or other person(s) being influenced to do the same. In some cases, victims of doxing have lost their job, moved out from their place or residence, change their contact details or even assaulted.

Currently, there is no specific law in Malaysia to govern doxing. In the Malay Mail article, I said-

Lawyers polled by Malay Mail conceded that doxing on its own is not a criminal offence, although it could fall under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 that handles improper use of network facilities or network service.

However, lawyer Foong Cheng Leong said this is only true if there had been publication of a comment which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.

“Invasion of privacy is also possible but the information leaked must be something of a private nature — not those in the public domain like full name, identification card number and address.

“Tort of harassment is also possible but that must be something of a repeated act of harassment by the same person,” said the chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Information Technology and Publication Committee.

The Malay Mail

Also read Bread & Kaya: Cyberstalking, harassment … and road rage

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