The latest example of the serious threats of U.S. free trade agreement implementation to balanced intellectual property systems in developing countries was announced by USTR today. In an exchange of letters, the U.S. has blessed the implementation of Panama’s FTA commitments on copyright that threaten the business models of some of the largest U.S. corporations – from Google to Ebay, Facebook to Netflix. Just prior to the FTA implementation, Panama sought to comply with the FTA requirements on copyright by passing a new law creating copyright protections on temporary storage on the internet, with no protection for the kind of buffer copies necessary for popular and fully licensed streaming services, while at the same time removing its broad fair use rights and adding a provision that all limitations and exceptions in its law must be strictly interpreted. It paired this reduction in rights for consumers and internet companies with a new bounty system that allows its copyright enforcement officials to personally profit from fines collected from copyright infringers of the kind its law will make of almost every internet user. This is not a victory that should be celebrated, but rather a cautionary tale that should raise flags for FTA negotiating partners and for all the social and economic interests in the U.S. that benefit from internet freedom abroad.
For more on the Panamanian Copyright law, see:
Panama Passes Incredibly Unbalanced Copyright Bill, http://infojustice.org/archives/27372
Overview of Panamanian Reactions to Passage of Copyright Legislation, http://infojustice.org/archives/27432
Sign On Letter to the President of Panama Regarding Bill no. 510, http://infojustice.org/archives/27447
Panamanian Copyright Bill (no. 510) Approved by Congress, http://infojustice.org/archives/27368
Copyright in Latin America: New Enforcement Measures Pose Major Threats to Internet Users in Panama and Colombia, http://infojustice.org/archives/27403
Is Panama About to Pass the Worst Copyright Law in History?, http://infojustice.org/archives/27344