Brasília
21 March 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Brazil floats new copyright rules under WTO


Brazil has raised new online copyright rules that could be included in future World Trade Organization (WTO) treaties.

The new proposals were circulated in a paper on electronic commerce and copyright in December 2016.

The paper, highlighted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), focused on transparency, the balance of rights and obligations, and the territoriality of copyright.

According to the EFF’s Jeremy Malcolm, the paper is a step in the right direction for copyright reform in the digital age.

But Malcolm said that Brazil didn’t go into enough detail in its paper. To specify where copyright fits in with the broad term of ‘transparency’, Brazil’s paper outlined how transparency of remuneration of copyright related to rights in the digital environment could address industry complaints of a “value gap”.

Malcolm argued that there are potential applications of distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain, to provide much needed transparency. “Rather than invest in exploring this or other transparency initiatives, big media has continued to devote most of its attention to a failing war on piracy,” he said.

Malcolm also said Brazil’s proposal for a balance of rights and obligations “correctly identifies the need to maintain balance between the interests of copyright holders and those of users of copyright works”.

“But the paper goes off the rails when it suggests that it may be unlawful under the WTO’s three-step test for countries to allow users to bypass digital rights management (DRM) on copyright works, on the grounds that DRM is essential for the normal exploitation of works in e-trade.”

Circumvention is often the only way for users to gain access to content on the devices of their choice and that it is “imperative for preservation, archival, and reuse of such content”.

Finally, Brazil addressed the territoriality of copyright, proposing that WTO members’ rules should make their “best efforts to make their national copyright legislation applicable to trade relations where content is accessed from within their national borders”.

Malcolm said: “If this means blocking or banning users from accessing overseas content services, we have serious concerns.”

“Such measures are entirely unnecessary anyway, as the world already has a common set of copyright rules as standards for global trade—that's exactly what the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights provides. Brazil hasn't made out a case for more.”

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