Ecuador: Civil Society Takes On Private Copying Levy

Ecuador no es copión

Image from Facebook page of Ecuador no es copión [Ecuador is no pirate]. Used with permission.

In Ecuador, the debate continues over compensatory remuneration for private copying, also known as the private copying levy. The debate was sparked by regulations proposed by the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI, according to its Spanish name) that would impose an additional tax of 4%-10% on the importation of all music and video devices, such as cellphones, personal computers, and tablets, as well as blank media (CDs, DVDs, etc).

The measure has not yet been implemented and, in the interim, various civil society organizations such as Usuarios Digitales [es] have launched a campaign against the private copying levy in Ecuador. Under the hashtag #EcuadorNoEsCopiónTwitter and Facebook users have joined together to spread the anti-levy message.

In March, a working group [es] consisting of representatives of the IEPI and civil society came together, at the latter's request, to address the “Act respecting intellectual property as it pertains to taxing equipment and blank media and how the proposed measure, from its application in other countries, would include things such as participation by ENRUCOPI [Ecuador's agency responsible for phonogram and ideogram private copying] and levies collected.” Some of the arguments and proposals put forward by members of civil society included: 

  • El cobro de una remuneración por la compensación de una hipotética copia privada en algún futuro, va contra la presunción de inocencia.
  • Este tipo de obstáculos va contra las propuestas del actual gobierno como la masificación del acceso a internet (Mintel), el libre acceso al conocimiento (Senescyt) y el cambio de Matriz Productiva (Vicepresidencia).
  • Se solicita se hagan públicos los estudios en los cuales se fundamenta el uso de dispositivos y soportes para copias privadas en Ecuador, el fundamento de los porcentajes (4% y 10%) que se quiere cobrar como porcentaje adecuado para el incentivo de la industria artítica ecuatoriana, entre otros.
  • Se propone llevar a consulta del artículo de esta Ley a la Comisión correspondiente de la Asamblea Nacional o a Corte Constitucional.
  • Se propone que el Reglamento se pueda recoger observaciones ciudadanas, a través de una Wiki, como se ha hecho con el Cód. de la Economía Social del Conocimiento.
  • Charging compensatory remuneration for future hypothetical private copying goes against the presumption of innocence.
  • This type of obstacle also goes against the current government's own proposals such as broadening general access to the Internet (Mintel), open access to knowledge (Senescyt) and modernizing the country's production matrix (Vicepresidencia).
  • The studies on which the proposal is based should be made public, including data on the use of devices and blank media for private copying in Ecuador and the basis for the percentages (4%-10%) that are considered an appropriate levy to incentivize, among other things, artistic production in Ecuador.
  • Consultation for the proposed article of the Act should be undertaken by the corresponding commission of the National Assembly or the Constitutional Court.
  • The proposed measure should incorporate citizen input, by means of public consultation (wiki), as was done for legislation governing the social knowledge economy. 

To which the government agency responded:

  • La Ley se hace en base a la presunción de que los ciudadanos realizan acceso a contenido dentro de la legalidad, no en base a la presunción de que los ciudadanos cometen un delito.
  • Se presume que todo acceso a contenido se realiza de manera legal, por lo que se hará en todo dispositivo una copia privada de ese material legal, copia que debe ser compensada.
  • La remuneración compensatoria se la está incluyendo también al Cód. de la Economía Social del Conocimiento.
  • No existe aún borrador del Reglamento ni items específicos en los cuales se aplicará, pero se especificó que se incluirán en un anexo.
  • Apoyan se haga uso de la participación ciudadana de conversar con miembros de su Consejo para hacer lobby y presentar argumentos para la no aplicación de la Remuneración Compensatoria.
  • Las consultas sobre alcances del art, de la Ley PI, deben partir de la sociedad civil. Es decir, que presenten propuestas a los entes rectores.
  • Consultarán sobre llevar borrador de Reglamento a wiki para colaboración en línea.
  • The Act is based on the presumption that citizens access content by legal means, not on the presumption that citizens are committing a crime.
  • It is assumed that all content is accessed legally, so a private copy of such legal material will be made in every device, a copy that is subject to compensation.
  • Compensatory remuneration is also being included in the social knowledge economy legislation.
  • No draft of the regulations has yet been written, nor of those specific items to which it will apply, but it has been specified that they will be included in an appendix.
  • Citizen participation through conversations with members of their Council is encouraged, to lobby and present arguments against application of the private copying levy.
  • Consultation about the implications of the article of the intellectual property Act should begin with civil society; that is to say, it should present its suggestions to the regulatory entities.
  • A consultation will be made about publishing the draft online for the purposes of wiki collaboration.

Alfredo Velazco, of the civil society organization Usuarios Digitales, and one of the participants in the working group, gave his opinion to Global Voices regarding the results of the meeting:

Creo que el principal resultado es que, después de múltiples pedidos desde la sociedad civil, se haya invitado al diálogo para escuchar a quienes finalmente pagaremos el canon digital. Ahora lo importante es que las políticas públicas plasmen no sólo las opiniones de los beneficiarios, sino de todos los actores que son impactados.

I think the main results is that, after multiple requests by civil society, a dialogue has begun to give voice to those who in the end will be paying the levy. The important thing now is that public policy expresses not just the opinions of the beneficiaries, but of all the stakeholders who are affected.  

Furthermore, members of #EcuadorNoEsCopión, inspired by the campaigns against private copying levies [es] in Spain, spoke to Enrique Dans, one of the prime movers in the struggle. Asked about what Spanish experiences in the fight against levies might be useful in Ecuador, Dans mentioned:

El canon logró cosas como, por ejemplo, hundir a toda la industria local de fabricación de CDs y DVDs, y hacer menos competitivas las compras de tecnología contribuyendo así al retraso tecnológico de nuestro país con relación a su entorno. Lo único que se puede aprender, aparte de fundamentos jurídicos que pueden llegar a ser muy útiles tras su necesaria transposición a la legislación local, es que el activismo es la única respuesta, y que este tiene que ser constante y persistente.

An example of the legacy of private copying levies is the destruction of local CD and DVD manufacturing, as well as making technology more expensive, thereby contributing to the technology gap between our country and its neighbours. The only thing that can be learned, apart from the legal basis that can be useful after necessarily being implemented at the local level, is that activism is the only answer—and that it has to be constant and lasting.

From Loja, Ecuador, on his blog bitácora de calú, Carlos Correa posts a part fictional, part true story [es] about the the refrigerators of Chimborazo to exemplify misunderstood protectionism and then goes on to answer some of the arguments commonly used to defend private copying levies:

  1. “No te quejes, apenas son unos centavos”. Aquí hay dos falacias: a) no se trata del monto sino del concepto, imagina que ingresas a un mercado de alimentos, el guardia mete su mano en tu bolsillo, te quita cinco centavos y te dice: “presumo que usted va a robar así que estos cinco centavos es un fondo para compensar ese supuesto, ahora si pase, vaya a comprar (y no robe mucho), aquí somos tolerantes”, te apuesto que no te vas a sentir nada bien; y b) suma todo el canon recaudado durante un año de todos los soportes susceptibles de grabación que se importan o se fabrican en el Ecuador, de seguro no son “apenas unos centavos”.

1. “Don't complain; it's only pennies.” Here there are two fallacies: a) it is not the amount, it's the principle; imagine you go to a grocery store, the guard at the door puts his hand in your bag, he takes out a nickel and says to you, “I assume you are going to steal, so this nickel is compensation for a presumed crime, so now come in, go shopping (and don't steal too much), we're open-minded here.” I bet you aren't going to feel great about it; and b) if you add up all the levies collected in the course of a year from all the data recording devices that are imported or manufactured in Ecuador, it definitely doesn't add up to “pennies”.  

As was indicated in the Ecuadorian media: Compensation is not popular on the Internet [es], but from there to securing a tangible result and convincing the Ecuadorian bureaucracy of the absurdity of some of the measures proposed is a long road—a road that will be strewn with initiatives like those mentioned above and others such as the one in this YouTube video by Activista Ecuatoriano:


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