If you wanted an indication of just how much copyright has moved on from being a dry and boring topic of interest only to a few specialist lawyers to an exciting area full of surprising twists and turns worthy of a soap opera, you could do worse than look at what’s been happening in Colombia recently.
A year ago, the Colombian government rushed through a really bad copyright law, known as “Ley Lleras 2”, pretty much as a welcome gift for President Obama, who was about to visit the country. It did this by invoking an “emergency procedure” that let it ignore nation-wide protests that had followed the presentation of a similar bill earlier, the original “Ley Lleras”. In January of this year, Ley Lleras 2 was struck down by Colombia’s Constitutional Court, but for purely procedural reasons, rather than because of its substance. Before this, however, another bill had been prepared that sought to fix some of the glaring problems with Ley Lleras 2. Even though the latter has been blocked for the moment, the other bill is proceeding:
This Bill contains provisions regarding limitation and exceptions to Copyright Law. Last 16 of April the Bill passed the second debate in the House of Representatives. Now it is pending for debate in the Senate.
This Bill contains six articles regarding limitations and exceptions. Article 1 mandates an exception for temporary copies made as part of a technological process in some specific circumstances. Article 2 mandates an exception in favor of people with sight or hearing disabilities. Article 3 mandates an exception in favor of libraries and archives allowing them to lend a work. Article 4 mandates an exception in favor of parody. Article 5 mandates an exception in favor of educational institutions allowing the public performance of a work under certain circumstances. Finally, Article 6 repeals all provisions contrary to the ones mandated by this Bill.
As infojustice.org points out in the post quoted above, this “other” Colombian copyright bill has already had a number of positive effects:
First, after the petition made by Red PaTodos, this Bill is being publicly debated. This is a positive point because previous copyright bills have been enacted through processes without public discussions. Second, some sectors of society other than copyright scholars have engaged in the discussion, and they have manifested their concerns regarding this bill. For instance, radio shows and news organizations that use parody as a way to inform people or make political criticism have raised their concerns about the scope of the parody exception and its effects in limiting parody. This is positive because it shows that different sectors of the society have realized the importance of copyright law in their daily activities. Third, the Colombian Parliament has the copyright law in their legislative agenda, and it has realized the importance of having a balanced copyright system.
It’s too early to guess what the final outcome of these two interlocking bills moving through the parliamentary system will be — there’s still plenty of time for yet more surprises. But the fact that there has been some open discussion of the proposed law, and that people are becoming aware of and engaged by the key issues raised by it, offers some hope that Colombia might end up with a better-balanced copyright system than either of the original Ley Lleras proposals would have provided.