One of the biggest problems we have with copyright policy today is the simple fact that it's almost entirely "faith-based," with no real evidence showing that current copyright laws benefit society. In fact, most specific studies show the opposite -- that copyright laws, as they exist today, tend to do more harm than good (except, potentially for middlemen). That's why international agreements that lock in certain forms of copyright law around the globe are so problematic. They don't allow
countries to experiment with different types of copyright law to see if they work better. That, of course, is one reason why ACTA is so troubling. However, before ACTA there were other such international agreements, such as WIPO and, most famously, the Berne Convention.
The Berne Convention
rules have massively expanded the scope of copyright law around the globe -- for example, it's the Berne Convention that says copyright should be automatically applied on new works, rather than requiring registration. The WIPO Copyright Treaty
more or less tried to update the century-old Berne rules for the modern age, and (of course) did so by expanding the rules even further. Nearly all the countries in the world have agreed to both of these faith-based agreements, blocking off the ability to experiment to see if different (or no) copyright rules might be better. Merely mentioning the idea of a different form of copyright law (or no copyright law) will quickly bring out defenders of the status quo pointing to our "international obligations" -- which is the universal dodge
from copyright system defenders who don't want to discuss how copyright law might react to being changed.
So what would it take for a country to actually opt-out of WIPO and Berne? A hell of a lot of guts, I imagine. The diplomatic pressure to stay in those agreements would be tremendous
. In fact, I can't recall ever hearing of countries seriously thinking about opting out of either. Which is why I was so interested to see Amelia Adersdotter
point to a recent panel discussion at the CopySouth
event held in Brazil, where a Bolivian musician active in these issues suggested that Bolivia might actually consider leaving Berne and WIPO
(link is a Google translation of the original
The speaker, Juan Carlos Cordero, used to work for the local collection society in Bolivia, and has worked on various groups studying the impact of intellectual property. He notes that Bolivia's new constitution actually goes against many old international treaties, and that the country seems willing to not be tied down by such agreements if they're not in the best interests of the country.
It's not clear that anyone in the Bolivian government is really thinking of dropping out of Berne or WIPO, or what would actually happen if they did. But given how rare it is for anyone to even suggest
a country dropping out of Berne/WIPO, this seemed worth noting.