July 23, 2013 | By Maira Sutton

Human Rights in the Digital Age: Exploring the Colombian Experience

Governments enact new digital policies in the name of national security and intellectual property, but they often have the effects of chilling free speech and violating privacy. A conference in Bogotá, Colombia, this week called Human Rights in the Digital Age will bring together activists, advocates, and policymakers to examine human rights within the context of these international digital policies and experiences.

In many ways, Colombia has been on the forefront of this conflict. Last year the Colombian Ministry of Justice and Technology issued a decree to compel telecom providers—including Internet service providers (ISPs)—to build-in backdoors to make it easier for law enforcement to spy on Colombians. The same decree also forces telecom companies to continuously collect and store millions of users' online location and subscriber information for five years. These policies are a gross infringement of Colombians' digital privacy.

In the copyright realm, Colombian digital enforcement policies have been equally disastrous. For the past few years, Internet users have fought back against twin bills, both nicknamed Ley Lleras, that were drafted to make their national laws compliant with a trade agreement the country signed with the U.S. in 2006.

The bills carried extreme copyright enforcement provisions that would have heightened criminal penalties, banned and increased restrictions on circumventing DRM even where it was not done for infringing purposes, expand the definition of a copy to even include "temporary" reproductions of files (including temporary storage in computer memory), and lengthened copyright terms at least another 20 years. Congress attempted to fast track the bill, but the courts fortunately struck it down earlier this year because lawmakers had overstepped various legislative procedures in the process. A new version of the bill is in the pipeline however, and advocates from around the world are already making efforts to improve the terms of the agreement before another copyright bill gets re-introduced.

The Human Rights in the Digital Age conference will explore the Colombian experience and circumstances behind these threatening digital policies and work toward the development of strong legal and advocacy strategies to defend users' rights online. The event will be held at Aula Mutis, Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá this Thursday July 25th from 8:00AM to 6:00PM CDT and will be livestreamed in Spanish. Colombian digital rights organization, Fundación Karisma has organized the event alongside Universidad del Rosario, Red Pa Todos, Open Society Justice Initiative, Fundación Para La Libertad Prensa (FLiP), Internews, Access, and the Washington College of Law's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.


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