Panama's Government One Step Away From Passing The 'Worst Copyright Law In History'
from the Panama's-copyright-office-also-one-step-away-from-a-new-'revenue-torrent dept
It looks as if Panama is set to pass what Andres Guadamuz (Technollama) called the “worst copyright law in history.” The 510 Bill grants the Panamanian copyright office the right to pursue filesharers directly and fine them up to $100,000 USD EACH with the money flowing directly back into the copyright office in the form of bonuses for the officials. None of the money flows to the rights holders and those who have been fined can still face civil action from those holding the copyrights.
infojustice.org reports that Bill 510 has been approved by the Congress and is now awaiting approval from the executive branch. The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ricardo Quijano, seemed pleased with its passage through Congress:
[Wi]th the implementation of this new Act, our country [Panama] is being upgraded within the international and global context.
Marcela Palacia Puerta (writing for infojustice.org) queries whether the Minister's statement is correct:
Is the Minister of Commerce right? Are the international standards implemented by this Act? This Act gives extraordinary power to the administrative organism in charge of the registration, storage, monitoring and inspection of copyright, allowing it to impose fines on infringers, violating the general principles of law as “non bis in idem” and “presumption of innocence”. Can impartiality and justice lead a process of imposing fines, when the beneficiaries of the fines are the functionaries of the organism itself?
Puerta is right. No other country has given the copyright office this sort of unchecked power before. Granting itself the leeway to directly pursue infringers and add the fees collected to the bonus pool is unprecedented. To be sure, “international standards” are being implemented, many of them at the behest of the US government (itself acting at the behest of the MPAA and the US Chamber of Commerce). The worst parts of US copyright law were signed into effect late last year and Panama seems to have taken the “free trade agreement” as a jumping off point, rather than the illogical extreme it actually is.
Rather belatedly, Congressman Jose Blandon asked to make the Act public to “avoid distrust within the population about this law.” Well, it's the afterthought that counts, I suppose, but transparency means allowing the public to participate well before the final step of the legislation process. At this point, the bill is two-thirds passed and any input will likely be too little, far too late.