Colombian Court Strikes Down Unconstitutional Copyright Law

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Wednesday had great news for technologically literate Colombian citizens, as a far-reaching copyright law has been struck down. The Constitutional Court of Columbia found “Ley Lleras 2” to be unconstitutional, mainly stemming from irregularities in how it was passed.

Flag_of_ColombiaProspective copyright laws are turning into something to be kept in the shadows, much like politicians’ mistresses.

Openly attempting to pass them has become an unpopular proposition at best as public responses to SOPA/PIPA and ACTA have shown.

Now they’re either hammered out in treaty negotiations where the public can be kept in the dark (like the TPP), passed in secret (as was attempted with HADOPI) or rushed through with minimal discussion (like the Digital Economy Act in the UK). To the latter you can add “Ley Lleras 2”, which has led to the law being ruled unconstitutional by the highest court in Colombia.

While there is little in the way of concrete details yet, early reports indicate that it was in the way the law was processed and presented that was the problem. According to Infojustice:

…the Court declared the unconstitutionality of the entire law due to procedural irregularities incurred in Congress because the law was processed in the Second Commission of Congress, like an international treaty, but not as the internal implementation of an intellectual property law which the process should have been carried out in the First Commission. Furthermore, the 1520 Act was processed as an ordinary law and not as a statutory law.

The above is based on press reports as the full decision of the court is not yet available. Detailed information of exactly what was wrong with the law will have to wait until the judicial decision is officially published.

What is also unknown is what this means for the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The law, Ley Lleras 2, was written and passed in order to implement obligations in the agreement, and now it’s been struck down it’s unclear what will happen.

The law itself was wildly unpopular with tech bloggers, going far beyond the requirements of the FTA and even beyond US law. Amongst the provisions of the law was the criminalisation of DRM circumvention, for any reason; and a twenty year copyright term extension.

Groups like the EFF welcomed the move yesterday, calling it…a law that was poorly crafted, based upon a trade agreement with defective policies, and enacted by throwing democratic rulemaking processes out the window.

However, the EFF also notes that it’s inevitable that another, similar, law will be proposed. It’s what happened in France with HADOPI after all. When the aforementioned attempt to sneak it through failed, it was re-proposed and passed a short time later. And even after it was ruled unconstitutional by the French Constitutional Court, a new, revised law was passed within a month.

When Hollywood (through its US Government subsidiary) barks national parliaments jump, at least until public protests remind the politicians who their real bosses are. The question is, will Colombians remember this the next time around?


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