Amendment to the Computer Crimes Act & Section 20

Amendment to Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act (CCA) was approved by the legislature in December 2016 and published in the Government Gazette on 24 January 2017, so will officially become law in May 2017.

Few laws have attracted so much controversy; more than 300,000 people signed a petition objecting to the amendments under the CCA, as they believe it gives excessively broad authority to government agencies to act against online content containing information that is deemed inappropriate, reports Human Rights Watch. But despite the petition, and concerns expressed by business and diplomatic representatives, the law was still unanimously adopted in December by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.

Of particular significance to holders of intellectual property rights is section 20 of the CCA, which has received both praise and criticism.

Section 20 establishes a “computer data screening committee” of nine appointees to monitor content that is not illegal but is found to violate “the public order or good morals of the people” which can request court orders to block or take down content. The CCA is silent on appointee selection and accountability, nor about what would constitute legal but censorship-worthy information, as reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

However, as noted in Lexology, Section 20 is aimed in part at reducing incidents of online infringement, and there is the hope that it will prove to be a significant addition to the tools available to IP rights owners. Section 20 could give IP rights owners the ability to entirely shut down an infringer’s website, cutting off profit channels and making it much more difficult for the infringer to continue its illegal operations. In so doing, the CCA does expand and strengthen the mechanisms available to rights owners seeking to enforce those rights against websites and service providers engaging in or permitting IP infringement, albeit arguably at the cost of overly broad governmental authority.