January 24, 2013 | By Maira Sutton

A Victory for Colombia: Constitutional Court Strikes Down Draconian Copyright Expansion Bill

Good news hails from Colombia today, where the Constitutional Court has struck down a sweeping copyright enforcement law because Congress had fast tracked the bill and overstepped various legislative procedures. The Court also ruled on the constitutionality of the law itself, over provisions on the retransmission of TV content and signals over the Internet as well as its language on technological protection measures (TPMs, also known as DRM). The law, nicknamed Ley Lleras 2, was passed to implement copyright enforcement obligations from the Colombia-US free trade agreement. Colombians and civil society groups, however, have been arguing that this law violates the right of education and culture because it would dramatically restrict access to knowledge online.

The law would have set forth copyright regulations that went even beyond the requirements of their trade agreement with the US and had many negative consequences for Internet users' rights to free expression and privacy. Ley Lleras 2 would have banned the circumvention of digital handcuffs that restrict copying and other uses of works, and also prohibit the creation and distribution of tools to circumvent TPMs, even if the end use is legal. While the Colombia-US FTA only requires punishment for "willful" criminal infringers, the new Colombian Copyright law is defined in a way that could even put someone in jail for a minimum of 4 years for burning a CD of music for their friend. In addition, it would have expanded copyright protection terms from 50 years to 70 years after first publication, and added further restrictions on broadcast content and its signals, even if the content itself was not subject to copyright protection.

It is very welcome news that Ley Lleras 2 has been repealed. It was a law that was poorly crafted, based upon a trade agreement with defective policies, and enacted by throwing democratic rulemaking processes out the window. Unfortunately, we expect another flawed copyright law to come down based upon Colombia’s trade obligations with the US. We stand with Fundación Karisma, RedPaTodos, American University’s Info Justice, ONG Derechos Digitales, and other digital rights organizations around the world to ensure another malformed copyright policies does not become law and threaten Colombians’ digital rights again.

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