[Jorge Gemetto, Creative Commons Uruguay, Link (CC-BY)] Last week, 14 people were convicted by an Uruguayan judge for the crime of making copies of educational resources. The defendants, owners of copy shops located near the University of the Republic (Universidad de la República) in Montevideo, have been sentenced to seven months in prison, although the judge has conditionally suspended the imprisonment. The case began in 2013, when a major police operation shuttered copy shops in the area surrounding the University, confiscated photocopy machines, and detained 32 people.
Movimiento Derecho a la Cultura
LAC Latin America, Link (CC-BY-SA)
2013 has been a year of deep discussions about copyright in Uruguay, which has ended with a copyright law reform intended to add exceptions and remove criminal sanctions for nonprofit infringements. A review of the recent events allows us to contextualize this process.
[Jorge Gemetto, Digital Rights-LAC, Link (CC-BY-SA)] In early July, the Uruguayan government had included an article in the Accountability Bill (one omnibus bill that mostly deals with administrative issues), which extended the term of copyright from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death. Article 218 (that was its number in the bill) was included at the request of the Uruguayan Chamber of the Record Industry (CUD, in Spanish) in coordination with Uruguay’s General Association of Authors (AGADU, in Spanish), entities that historically led the copyright law reform, succeeding in imposing growing restrictions.
This time, for the first time, they received a political setback, due to strong opposition from many sectors.
Tobacco giant, Philip-Morris, brought actions this year under investor-State arbitration mechanisms in investment treaties to challenge laws limiting (in Uruguay) or prohibiting (in Australia) the display of its trademarks in tobacco packaging. This has caused the Australian government to take a strong stance against any investor-State arbitration provisions in free trade agreements (FTAs), including exemptions from the proposed investor-state settlement provisions of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), currently being negotiated. However, a closer look reveals a broad collection of older treaties that do not contain exceptions in modern treaties that could have avoided this situation. As a multinational-enterprise, Philip-Morris has attempted to evade these exceptions by going through subsidiaries to bring claims under more favorable treaties. This reveals that Australia’s new stance against investor-State arbitration may do nothing to prevent similar claims being brought in the future.