Panama Considering Legislation That Allows The Copyright Office To Pursue Filesharers Directly — And Keep All The Fines

from the somewhere-in-DC,-Lamar-Smith-experiences-inexplicable-arousal dept

From SOPA/PIPA to the Digital Economy Act to ACTA to the DMCA, there’s no shortage of bad legislation built to serve various copyright-driven industries. But just when you thought you’d seen the very edge of how far legislators were willing to go, someone comes along and tops it.

Technollama brings news that Panama is attempting to raise/lower the “bad legislation” bar (not sure which direction the bar would actually be traveling…) with its Proyecto 510-2012 bill, dealing with copyright and related rights.

The 510 Bill gives new powers to an administrative branch of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry called the General Copyright Directorate (Dirección General de Derecho de Autor, henceforth DGDA). Unlike similar copyright administrative offices around the world, the DGDA will have the power to impose fines on infringers without prejudice of further criminal or civil actions.

It’s exactly what it looks like: the Panamanian copyright office is being given the power to chase down filesharers and fine them up to $100,000 PAB ($100,000 USD). In addition, the “without prejudice” portion means that filesharers can still be pursued by rights holders, even if the government has already levied a fine.

The bill goes even further than this astounding bit of rent-seeking:

[T]he DGDA has the power to unilaterally haul any alleged infringer, ask them to mount a defence within 15 days, impose fines of up to $100k USD ($200k for re-offenders), and on top of that this person may still have another civil case against them added to the administrative fine. Adding insult to injury, they also have to pay for the publication of the fine so that everyone knows what a nasty pirate they are.

So, you have a government entity pursuing citizens for copyright infringement (a civil matter, or so it used to be…), an act which opens them up to further civil action from the rightsholders. With this kind of enforcement, the Panamanian creative industries should be rolling in extracted filesharer dough. Or so you would think, if this bit of wording wasn’t present in the bill:

The funds accrued by the General Copyright Directorate from the fees for the services it provides and the fines imposed in the exercise of its powers, will be aimed at improving its operational infrastructure and to boost the performance of its officers, complementary to the funds that the State Budget reserves for the operation of the entity[…]. The amounts corresponding to each official, shall not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the total basic salary monthly remuneration.

That’s right, none of it goes back to the rightsholders. These fines get fed right back into the system that levied them. Not even back into the government in general, but directly back to the DGDA. Wow. How could that possibly be abused?

This is what I think will happen if the law passes as it stands. The DGDA will immediately try to monitor all torrent use in Panama, be it legitimate or not, and all people identified with IP addresses will be summoned and summarily fined. After all, the institution and its employees will have a direct financial incentive to assume guilt. Then those same people will be sent again and again, as there will be clear incentive to fine re-offenders.

Well, that’s sounds like all the fun of copyright trolls combined with the “answer to no one” power of the government all rolled up into big ball of perverse incentives. I suppose the government will turn these filesharers over to the rightsholders once it’s drained them of money to toy with the drained corpse through civil proceedings.

Meanwhile, the industries seeking this sort of protection will find that no one has any money left to purchase their products, much less pay off another set of hefty fees. While this may provide the rightsholders with some sort of second-hand vindictive high, it’s hard to see how this betters their financial situation in the least.

Technollama calls the legislation “toxic.” It is. And more than that, it’s completely perverse in every sense of the word. It hooks an agency up to an IV full of money and trusts it not to repeatedly press the “dispense” button. Sure, it may cut down on infringement, but once a government agency is hooked on steady income, it usually comes up with new (and worse) ways to keep the buzz going. The dollar amount of the fines will be ratcheted up and the definition of “infringing activity” will become broader, perhaps encompassing such maximalist wet dreams as embedded video. It’s ugly, any way you slice it.

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Comments on “Panama Considering Legislation That Allows The Copyright Office To Pursue Filesharers Directly — And Keep All The Fines”

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Anonymous Coward says:

And how is that any different from “Nick” Navarro, one time sheriff of Broward County Florida. Yes the same country that sponsored the left wing attempt to take over White House in 2000. The same county that is 90% Democrat and the same one in which you could not elect a Republican to the high position of dog catcher.

Since I did not directly experience it, it is only rumor. The rumor was that prisoners were released from the county jail if they could furnish outside drug bust. So, the prisoners simply obtained drugs, planted them in out-state tourist cars, preferable young hippie types, which were then confiscated by the sheriff department for being drug cars.

And then there is that clown in Maricopa county Arizona which needs no introduction.

And is you do not like that you can try the shake down by the Wisconsin union mobsters.

Or an even better one the DC federal shake down.

Anonymous Coward says:

these laws were originally dreamed up by the US entertainment industries. rather than competing in the open market and/or providing customers with what has been asked for for decades, they have insisted on bribing politicians into introducing bad legislation. the natural progression is that certain bodies inside certain governments would see the advantages to themselves, bypassing the industries and keeping all ill gotten gains. we now have this situation developing where, as per usual, the public will be charged with crimes, based on nothing more than an IP address and assumed guilty unless able to prove innocence. the industries may well pursue those same convicted felons but the chance of getting anything will be even less than zero, the government body concerned having taken everything the person had before throwing them into prison. i am trying to figure out what good this will do anyone at all. if it transpires, the only thing will be more prisons built to accommodate those guilty of such a heinous crime whilst true criminals will be free to carry on their pursuits. i do wonder how many people will be put into this position because of sharing information before someone actually realises what the fuck they have done and asks why the hell did we do it? what did it achieve?

Jason (profile) says:

Holy Crap!!

Wow, if my country passed a law this incredibly heinous, I think that just to be safe, I’d stop consuming RIAA and MPAA content altogether.

Screw wether I’d be getting it legally or not.

If a false accusation that you obtained an mp3 illegally?could cost you 100 GRAND, it would be safest to have no music or movies at all.

This is what the industry wants, right, right??

Anonymous Coward says:

So in other words.

1) The government is handing rights holders what are probably can’t lose cases with these fines, since you’ve already been found guilty of that earlier, and they don’t even have to wait for you to reoffend.

2) The government is effectively ‘stealing’ money owed to rights holders if they fine all the money away from the offenders in part #1, and they have nothing left to pay the rights holders when they get sued in part #2. Yet the rights holders are a okay with that because of all the unloseable cases it gives them.

3) Considering Panama is already a poor country, this is a great way to turn more people even farther against IP, which could cost the rights holders big in the future if everyone gets so fed up with it that they destroy the copyright/patent system altogether.

Titania Bonham-Smythe says:

According to this: Panama has about 1m people using the Internet out of a population of 3.5m.

Their government has to weigh off the benefits of being able to apply unlimited taxes to 2/7ths of their population, with the risk that nobody in the country would want to engage in any Internet activity, so they become technologically backward and unable to compete on a world stage.

Milton Freeewater says:

Want to attract new business?

If you’re a struggling country and you want to attract new investment, then do NOT do what Panama is proposing.

What a great way to encourage your young work force to move out and to keep foreign money from coming in.

On the other hand, a VPN becomes mandatory under this kind of law, so that’s a business opportunity for somebody.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Though I'm sure I just missed it...

I didn’t see the part where they explained the massive, lose-you-job-and-get-sent-to-jail penalties for making a false shakedo… uh, I mean accusation. Surely they would have something like that in place to prevent abuse. A government would never have a law that basically granted a government agency not just the freedom to shake down people for money, but then gave them massive incentive to do so, all without any rules or regulations that would prohibit and punish them for going after innocent people, that would just be wrong.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think I just blew my sarcasm meter to pieces, and will need to order in a replacement.

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