Last month, the Panamanian executive branch introduced new copyright legislation to bring the nation into compliance with its Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.  The executive would like the legislature to pass it by October. Bill no. 510 “On Author’s Rights and Neighboring Rights” (Sobre Derechos e Autor y Derchos Conexos) lengthens the term of copyrights to 70 years after the life of the author, and seems to expand the definition of “reproduction” to include temporary copies. It amends the criminal penalties section of the existing law. It increases civil and criminal penalties for infringement.

Bill no. 510 also creates a strong financial incentives for the agency in charge of enforcement to monitor ordinary people and to increase the quantity of enforcement actions. WCL student Lina Diaz has been examining the legislation, and reports that the “bill strengthens the Directorate General of Copyright by adding new functions and allowing the allocation of fees and economic sanctions applied by the agency into its own budget. This is a huge change, if we consider that in Civil Law Tradition countries usually any fee or economic sanction collected by any agency goes to General Budget and it is redistributed according to national budget. In this case, the bill goes ever further and also states that those resources shall be used to improve the Agency’s infrastructure and to stimulate staff performance…. Also, the bill gives the agency ex officio faculty to supervise persons, whether natural persons or legal entities, who use protected works, performances and productions, insofar as they give rise to the enjoyment and exercise of the rights laid down in this Law.”

Looking at the text:

  • Article 152(9) gives the Directorate General the ability to “Apply administrative penalties under this title” (original: “Aplicar las sanciones administrativas previstas en este Título”)
  • Article 152(5) gives the agency the authority to monitor users of copyrighted materials. (original: Supervisar de oficio o a petición de parte interesada a las personas naturales o jurídicas que utilicen las obras, interpretaciones, producciones, emisiones protegidas, en cuando den lugar al goce y ejercicio de los derechos establecidos en la presente Ley,”)
  • Article 153: “The charges accruing DG Copyright by rates arising from services rendered and the fines imposed in the exercise of its powers, will be aimed at improving its operational infrastructure and stimulate the performance of their officials…”  (original: “Las sumas que perciba la Dirección General de Derecho de Autor por las tasas derivadas de los servicios que preste y por las multas que aplique en ejercicio de sus facultades, serán destinadas a mejorar su infraestructura operativa y estimular el rendimiento de sus funcionarios…”)


Click here for the full text of the Bill no. 510, Sobre Derechos e Autor y Derchos Conexos.