Monday, July 20, 2020 - 16:58


SMU’s Assoc. Profs Warren B Chik and Saw Cheng Lim weigh in on its direction and those of other ICT laws.


PDPA and POFMA: the passing of these two Acts made the past decade the most eventful ever in the local Infocomm Technology (ICT) law scene. Besides bringing the issues of data security and fake news to the fore, the Acts also demonstrated the growing importance and reach of ICT law beyond its perceived confines.

This trend will only accelerate as we emerge into a more digitised world after COVID-19; so a webinar next week on likely developments in ICT law, both short- and long-term, is timely.  An early understanding of these changes and their effects could give legal teams an edge as they help clients navigate the current recession. 

Delivered by Associate Professors Warren B Chik and Saw Cheng Lim of the Singapore Management University, the webinar on 21 July will provide insights into how our data protection and intellectual property laws could evolve in the 2020s. Both speakers are extremely familiar with the subject, having contributed extensively to its research and development. They are also the authors of Information and Communications Technology Law in Singapore, the only textbook devoted to local laws on the subject.

In a chat with SAL, the duo discuss possible changes to their respective research interests. They also weigh in on the responsiveness of regulation to emerging tech and tech threats. 

·        ON POFMA: Published earlier this year, the book includes a chapter explaining POFMA. Having seen its use in the ongoing pandemic, as well as the 2020 General Election, Assoc. Prof Chik believes that he is better placed to shed light on how it may be developed or interpreted in the future. After all, both events are especially vulnerable to the fake news scourge. He opines, “Although POFMA has its legitimate place in the containment of falsehoods that can have a negative impact on society, it is clear that greater engagement of civil society in the process is still needed and more transparency in the way it is implemented is also necessary.”

“Some concepts require greater clarity, which can be provided by the POFMA Office, through regulations and/or consistent judicial decisions these include what constitutes a false ‘statement of fact’ and what is considered of ‘public interest’. This will also go some way in dispelling any suspicion or misapprehension that the law may be abused for political gain or that it will be used liberally so as to stifle free speech.”

·        ON THE COPYRIGHT ACT: Policymakers are embarking on a review, and possible overhaul, of Singapore’s copyright laws. This, says Assoc. Prof Saw, will ensure the continued balance between the competing interests in copyright: the owners of the IP rights and society-at-large.

As part of this balance, the Government will attempt to pass an amendment to the Copyright Act, by renaming the fair dealing defence to that of fair use. “For the longest time, our fair dealing defence has been modelled after the US Fair Use defence, but we've not used the language of fair use. Instead, we've retained the language of fair dealing.” This largely symbolic move, he adds, will follow global trends and signal greater support for fair and legitimate access to copyrighted works.

·        ON REGULATION: Given the complexities of regulating and legislating, it should come as no surprise that dealing with tech threats like fake news and data breaches takes a fair bit of time. But Assoc. Prof Chik opines that Singapore has done better with experience, observing, “Compare the time it took for the PDPA bill to be worked out and passed (more than five years), compared to POFMA (fewer than 3).” He credits this to the public sector’s prioritisation of IT regulation.

Assoc. Prof Saw agrees, adding that he foresees Artificial Intelligence to be high on this list as well. “Given the prominence that AI has taken on during COVID-19, I suspect developments in its regulation and the like will receive far greater attention very soon.”

Assoc. Profs Chik and Saw present the upcoming Specialist Insight Series on Information and Communications Law. Registrations are open now; a bundle deal with Information and Communications Technology Law in Singapore is also available.

Delve deeper into issues surrounding ICT law at TechLaw.Fest 2020. Complimentary registrations are available now.


Associate Professor Warren B Chik
Called to the Bar: 2000
Warren is an Associate Professor of Law with the Singapore Management University School of Law and Deputy Director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Data Governance. He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the National University of Singapore Law School and Master of Laws degrees from University College London and Tulane University. He is also called to the bar in Singapore, London and Wales, and New York. Warren researches and writes predominantly in the area of infocomm technology and the law, in particular in the areas of Internet intermediaries law and data protection and privacy law.


Associate Professor Saw Cheng Lim
Called to the Bar: 1999 
Cheng Lim is an Associate Professor of Law at the Singapore Management University where he has taught for more than 20 years. His research interests lie mainly in the law of intellectual property and he has published widely in both local and leading international journals. A number of his articles have also been cited and endorsed by the Singapore High Court and the Singapore Court of Appeal. Cheng Lim holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the National University of Singapore and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Cambridge. He is also an Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore.


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