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Colombia: Lawmakers Rush Bill on Author Rights and Intellectual Property

Categories: Latin America, Colombia, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Law, Protest

This March 20 the proposed Law 201 (2012) [1] [es] was presented, somewhat hurriedly, to the Colombian congress [2]. This proposed law reforms [3] [es] the legislative and regulatory framework of intellectual property and the rights of authors. On March 23, only three days after its initial reading, the law was approved by the Senate and House of Representatives secondary committees.

Red Pa Todos (“Internet for Everyone”) has been collecting  petition signatures [4] [es] asking the Colombian congress to debate the proposed law without unnecessarily rushing through procedures to vote on its approval.

The law attempts to conform to one of the obligations [5] [es] arising from the implementation of a free trade agreement with the US [6] (FTA). The law's proposal also coincides with the arrival of the President of the United States Barack Obama on April 14 in Cartagena [7], where he will attend the Summit of the Americas [8]. The Colombian government plans to make an official announcement on the Colombia-US FTA at the summit.

These developments have unleashed several reactions [9] [es] in traditional media [10] [es], as well as numerous protests from diverse citizen media [11] [es]. Activists and citizens have rejected the urgent, hurried attitude with which the law has been presented. Many connect this law to the previous “Lleras Law [12]” that sought to regulate the liabilities for author's rights infractions as well as internet derived rights.

Anonymous, the famous hacktivist group so hard to define, shared a note about the law on Facebook [13] [es] and also published a video on YouTube that was titled “#LeyllerasRecargada” (“#LawLlerasReloaded”):

On March 27, La Silla Vacía [14] [es] reported on Anonymous’ recent actions:

La semana pasada, el primer debate de este proyecto de ley fue aprobado “a pupitrazo” [en un procedimiento de urgencia], y hoy, aunque no comenzó el segundo debate en el Senado, Anonymous está usando la estrategia a la que recurrió hace casi un año: la facción colombiana de este grupo difícil de definir envió un comunicado [15] esta mañana criticando al Gobierno Nacional por presentar este proyecto y desde su cuenta de twitter @Anonymous_co [16] llamó a sus seguidores para atacar la página del Senado [17] que está caída [18] desde hace unas dos horas.

The past week the first debate on this proposed law was resolved with approval “a pupitrazo” [a legislative procedure that fast tracks the law's approval], and today, though the second debate has not started in the Senate, Anonymous is using the same methods and strategy they used almost a year ago to get action. The Colombian faction of this group sent a  communication [15] [es] this morning criticizing the national government for proposing this law and from their Twitter account, @Anonymous_co [16], [es] called their followers to attack the Colombian senate's website [17] [es] which has been down [18] [es] for the past 2 hours.

For their part, Red pa todos [19] [es] clarifies the difference between the Law Lleras and the newly proposed one:

En contenido el Proyecto de Ley 201 no es la Ley Lleras, esa se ocupaba de la responsabilidad de los proveedores de servicios de Internet por las posibles infracciones de sus usuarios, responsabilidad por hechos de terceros, mientras éste es una reforma al derecho de autor, toca plazo de protección, excepciones, definiciones, derechos conexos, reforma los delitos, habla de Medidas de Protección Tecnológicas, etc.

In content the proposed Law 201 is not the same as the Lleras law. The Lleras Law made internet service providers liable for the possible IP infractions of their users, responsible for third parties. Meanwhile the proposed law 201 is a reform of the rights of authors, touching on the protective duration of works, exceptions, definitions, derived rights, reform of crimes, technology protective measures, etc.

The group [20] [es] also confirms that they are preparing a complete proposal to present to congress, airing 5 initial concerns including the following:

También podría violar derechos de usuarios si, como sucede en esta versión, no se consagra el procedimiento administrativo que el propio TLC contempla para ajustar cada 4 años esas excepciones. En el proyecto no se desarrolla el procedimiento sino sólo una facultad general para el gobierno de proponer cambios. Nos preguntamos entonces, ¿para qué el afán? Tampoco se están cumpliendo con todas las obligaciones del TLC, falta esta.

Also this proposed law would violate the rights of users if, as exists in the proposed version, an administrative procedure is not established (which the FTA itself contemplates) to adjust exceptions every 4 years. The proposed law does not develop the procedure, rather it outlines a general ability of the government to propose changes. We ask ourselves then, “Why the rush?” The law isn't even fulfilling all the obligations of the FTA. It lacks this administrative procedure.

María Juliana Soto also expreses her concern [21] [es] on the Fundación Karisma portal. The lawyer Iván Vargas Chaves provides an analysis on website equinoXio [22] [es]:

Una de las grandes preocupaciones que nos atañen como ciudadanos de la sociedad de la información es el vernos obligados a dejar el bloqueo de contenidos en Internet en manos de una autoridad administrativa, y no de un juez como siempre lo ha sido, aquellas libertades que no son más que el reflejo de un Estado Social de Derecho, pues ante todo, es el juez mismo, en atención a la figura de reserva judicial, el único que luego de una ponderación y aplicación del debido proceso puede decidir sobre éstos, lo que se traduce en tener la certeza sobre la aplicación de garantías a la libertad de expresión e información y derecho de huelga y competencia.

One of the biggest worries that concerns us as citizens of an information society is that this new law seems to make mandatory an administrative authority having the power to block internet content rather than a judge, as has always been the case. These are liberties which are no more than the reflection of a legal social state because, well before anything, it is the judge himself, attentive to judicial reserve, as the only one that can decide on these things  after contemplation and the application of due process. This judicial presence translates to having certainty in the application of the guarantees of freedom of expression and information as well as the right to protest and compete.

Carolina Botero in her blog Carobotero-co asks that the law be debated over a prudent time frame [23] [es], and argues that the congressmen are not well informed on the law's contents:

Sería bueno cumplir TLC a tiempo, pero sería mejor hacerlo bien, no sería el primer país en pedir plazo y al menos los congresistas la leerían

It would be good to fulfill the FTA obligations in a timely manner, but it would be better to do it well. We won't be the first country to ask for an extension and then at least the congressmen could read this law.

German (@germread [24]) [es] refers to the term “pupitrazo [25]” [es] while talking about the same topic on Twitter:

Hoy aprendí en mi visita al congreso la palabra #pupitrazo [25], Dícese de de congresistas que aprueban leyes #lleras [26] sin leerlas y discutirlas.

Today during my visit to congress I learned the word #pupitrazo [25], which is used when congressmen approve laws #lleras [26] without reading or discussing them.

The blog Hyperconectado [27] [es] titled an article “The New Lleras Law” [28] [es] and puts forward a series of questions for the government, including:

 ¿Por qué tan rápido quieren la aprobación? o ¿Por qué el gobierno no quiere una discusión abierta y transparente sobre el tema?

Why do they want to pass this so quickly? Or, why does the government not want open and transparent discussion on this subject?

Geraldine Juárez at ALTI040 compares this law against others [29] [es] and finds an interesting similarity, a “coincidence,” in how they have been presented for debate:

No es una casualidad que Ley Sinde, Ley Lleras, SOPA, etc…compartan la peculiar característica de la prisa. Su objetivo es excluir el debate público para evitar que sus abusivos fines y colusión de los gobiernos con las corporaciones, sean expuestas.

It isn't a coincidence that the Sinde Law, Lleras Law, SOPA, etc. share a peculiar rushed feeling in their approval process. Their objective is to exclude public debate in order to avoid exposure of their abusive fines and the collusion of governments and corporations.

Finally, from the blog El Kilo, Arias publishes an open letter [30] [es] to the Colombian congress, concluding with this call to accounting:

Si le queda dignidad, señor congresista, al menos discuta el proyecto, y tómese un rato para informarse acerca de lo que está legislando, antes de ponerle su firma.

Mr Congressman, if you still have some dignity, please at least discuss the proposal and take some time to inform yourself about what you are legislating, before putting down your signature.