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Brazil: Copyright Reform Proposal Under Consultation

Listed among the five toughest laws in the world [pt] with regard to access to information and cultural products in protected works, the Brazilian Copyright Act (Law 9.610/98) is to be reformed. A public consultation [pt] is open until August the 31st, after an extension of the initial period of 45 days in order to expand the opportunity for participation. More than 1,200 contributions about the proposed changes, which have sparked intense debate in the blogosphere and twittosphera, have been submitted since June 14th. The Direito do Povo [pt] blog summarizes the discussion:

“A discussão sobre as aplicações da LDA é sempre complexa. De um lado, os autores e o respeito às suas obras. De outro, o direito de acesso à cultura e ainda os mecanismos que movem a economia e a indústria fonográfica.”

“The debate about the applications of the Copyright Act is always complex. On one hand, we have authors and respect for their works. On the other, the right of access to culture and also the driving mechanisms of the music economy and industry.”

There are important issues at the forefront of the proposed changes, such as the assignment of rights; the right to private copy; permission to copy out of print books; fair use rights to film and music exhibitions at schools as teaching materials; non-voluntary licenses and the role of the Government; the collection office and copyright collectives; and, the possibility of offline access to digitized files from cultural institutions, among other issues.

The most popular issues discussed on the web are public difficulties in accessing cultural information, author freedom related to their works and excessive profiteering by industry middlemen. Regarding the misconceptions of the current law, a researcher at the Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getulio Vargas Marília Maciel states in an interview for Nós da Comunicação [pt]:

“O atual modelo de proteção de direito autoral privilegia muito mais o intermediário, seja editora ou gravadora, do que o artista propriamente dito. É preciso que se retome o foco no artista e que se estabeleçam limitações e exceções que possam trazer um equilíbrio de volta, dos interesses do artista e da sociedade em obter acesso ao conhecimento e às obras intelectuais.”

“The current model of copyright protection favors the middleman, either publishers or labels, over the artist. It is necessary to place the focus on the artist again and to establish limitations and exceptions to strike a balance between the interests of the artist and those of society in gaining access to knowledge and intellectual works.”
"Pirate is who calls me pirate"

"Pirate is your mother!", by Cultura e Mercado Blog

The culture of freely sharing content and accessing information is often seen as piracy in Brazil. Leonardo Brant, from the Cultura e Mercado blog publishes the image above and questions what piracy is [pt]:

“O que é pirataria? Quem são os verdadeiros usurpadores do conhecimento alheio? Quem a pirataria beneficia? E quem atinge? Podemos considerar piratas crianças e jovens que compartilham arquivos, se apropriando do conhecimento gerado por nossa civilização? Quem é o autor de uma obra remixada? Existe obra 100% original? Como sobreviverá o artista diante da proliferação da dita “pirataria”? E a indústria cultural, é necessária numa época de compartilhamento de dados pier-to-pier?”

“What is piracy? Who are the true usurpers of someone else's knowledge? Who benefits from piracy? And who is hit by it? Can we consider children and young people who share files, appropriating themselves of the knowledge generated by our civilization, as pirates? Who is the author of a remixed work? Are there 100% original works? How will artists survive with the proliferation of this so-called “piracy”? Is the cultural industry necessary in a time of pier-to-pier data sharing?”

The Hackeando Aibo blog points to an incompatibility between the new law, existing technology and the online information sharing conjuncture:

“Ao disponibilizar conteúdo na rede o seu criado também não será prejudicado? Sim e Não. Na verdade é uma via de duas mãos. Se formos pensar pelo lado da desconstrução sim. Mas se formos pela construção a rede é uma nova plataforma com diversas maneiras de ser utilizada sem contar no seu potencial de divulgação, o maior do mundo sem sombra de dúvida. As possibilidades são muito maiores que as dificuldades na relação criador/ Internet. É é exatamente em cima delas que se deve trabalhar. O compartilhamento de informações na rede é um fato que já está dado e defender agora o copyright de 70 anos como as indústrias tem feito é continuar obsoleto frente a uma realidade.”

By providing their content on the web, will authors be harmed? Yes and No. It is actually a two-way street. If we think about “deconstruction”, it will. But if we go for “construction”, the web is a new platform that can be used in so many ways, not mentioning its potential for propagation, doubtless the largest in the world. The creator/Internet relationship presents far greater possibilities than difficulties. We should work on these [possibilities]. Information sharing on the web is already taken as fact and defending the 70 year old copyright laws, as the industry has been doing, is akin to becoming obsolete in the face of a reality.”

Although music seems to be in the forefront of the copyright debate, the issue is much deeper. The proposed changes have the main benefit of resolving important issues like the public right of access to culture. The “Cineclube: Apontamentos” [pt] blog emphasizes the importance of the new law for greater circulation of cultural production:

“A trajetória política desse anteprojeto de lei vai ser das mais momentosas, justamente pela importância central que tem no processo de apropriação e circulação da produção cultural que, por sua vez, são cada vez mais importantes para a preservação ou para a transformação das relações de poder na sociedade mundial.”

“The political trajectory of this draft bill will be one the most momentous decisions, precisely because of the central importance it has in the process of ownership and circulation of cultural production which, in turn, will be an increasingly important thing to maintain or transform relations of power in global society.”

One of the most challenged points in the current copyright law is the lack of collection transparency. For instance, the role of the Copyright Central Officer for Collection and Distribution (ECAD), a controversial copyright collective of musical works, is one of the most questioned, having even been the target of an investigation into cartels [pt] carried out by the Justice Cabinet, after a complaint that the collective sets indiscriminate and abusive license fees:

“A Lei do Direito Autoral confere ao Ecad o monopólio para arrecadação e distribuição dos valores relativos à execução pública dos direitos autorais. Os titulares dos direitos autorais podem fixar os valores para a execução pública de suas obras individualmente ou por meio de associações. No modelo vigente hoje, as associações fixam os valores dos direitos em conjunto, e não de forma individual. Segundo o ministério, o modelo de gestão coletiva dos direitos autorais conferiu ao Ecad o monopólio legal sobre as atividades de arrecadação e distribuição de valores, mas não sobre a atividade de fixação desses valores.

“The Copyright Act grants ECAD a monopoly on the collection of royalties and the distribution of royalties collected. Copyright holders may set the license fees for public performance of their works individually or through associations. Under the current model, the associations set the license fees of rights collectively, not individually. According to the [Justice] Cabinet, this model of collective management of copyright gives ECAD the legal monopoly on the activities of collection and distribution of license fees, but not on setting such fees.

The artist realm joins the debate. In this video [pt], composer Tim Rescala wonders how an association that should protect artists counts over 7,000 lawsuits filed against it because of irregularities in the collection of rights from those it should protect. Yet some believe the problem is not ECAD, but the lack of government surveillance, as record producer Nelson Motta states in this open letter to Rescala [pt]: 

O Ecad, como qualquer empresa, deve ser fiscalizado pelo Estado, que lhe cobra impostos, e pelo cumprimento de leis trabalhistas, comerciais e empresariais. Não é preciso lei nenhuma para isto, é uma empresa que presta serviços, ganha dinheiro e paga impostos.

ECAD, like any other business, must be supervised by the State, which tax them regarding compliance with labor, trade and business laws. There is no need for a law governing this, it is a company that provides services, makes money and pays tax.

Meanwhile, independent socio-cultural initiatives have been forced to close down due to the high rates of license fees charged by ECAD. The blog of Ação da Cidadania (Citizens’ Action), for instance, announces that the planned free youth film screening that would launch the NGO's Film Society created with state funding had to be cancelled.

Film club cancelled

Citizens' Action Film Club cancelled

Although the debate about the new law is ongoing, a recent article on ARS Technica suggests that the United States has a lot to learn from the Brazilian decision to punish anyone who “hinders or impedes” fair use rights or obstructs the use of work that has already fallen into the public domain:

Brazil's proposal could be spun as something hostile to rightsholders, but it's not that simple. The law does provide protection for DRM [Digital Rights Management]; in general, it is illegal to remove, modify, bypass, or impair such anti-copying technology. It's just that rightsholders can't use DRM as a digital lock to give themselves more control over a work through technology than they have under the law. (…)

Canadian Professor Michael Geist, who has stressed the adequacy of the amendment introduced by the Brazilian legislator in relation to anti-circumvention activities, sums it up as a properly balanced approach that doesn't buy into the “more is better” approach to copyright protections: “In other words, the Brazilian proposals recognize what the Supreme Court of Canada stated several years ago – over-protection is just as harmful as under-protection.”

Even with apparent international support for the proposed changes to the Brazilian legislation, there is a need to place greater attention on the lack of dialogue between the country and relevant international treaties, as Marília Maciel emphasizes [pt]:

“Os tratados internacionais que o Brasil assina permitem que os países signatários incluam nas suas legislações nacionais limitações e exceções para uso educacional das obras intelectuais, para facilitar o acesso das obras aos deficientes, para se digitalizar os acervos de bibliotecas, por exemplo. Isso a nossa atual lei de direito autoral não permite. O Brasil tem padrões tão rígidos de proteção à propriedade intelectual que sequer reconhece as limitações e exceções que são facultadas pelos tratados internacionais. Eu acho que seria uma mudança bastante importante, que traria um equilíbrio muito maior entre interesses conflitantes.

“The international treaties signed by Brazil allow signatory countries to include in their national legislation limitations and exceptions for educational use of intellectual works, in order to facilitate access to these works for disabled people, and to digitize library collections, for example. Our current copyright law does not allow this. Brazil has such rigid standards of intellectual property protection that [the country] even fails to acknowledge limitations and exceptions provided by international treaties. I think this would be an extremely important change that would bring a much greater balance between conflicting interests.

At the end of the consultation, the text will be redrafted based on the proposals made by the public. There is no deadline for the Executive to submit the project to the Congress.

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