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Contxto – One week ago, the Mexican Senate approved reforms to the country’s federal Copyright Law.
These changes were in fulfillment with Mexico’s part in the USMCA, the free trade agreement that became effective on July 1. And as reforms often go, it was met with criticism and speculation as to how it might affect users’ right to freedom of speech online through platforms and social media.
To avoid conjecture and obtain answers, Contxto turned to Cinthya Gómez, Senior Associate at Novus Concilium, a legal firm specializing in tech and venture capital in Mexico.
So if you’re a tech startup (or a concerned citizen), keep reading to see how these reforms can help (or hurt) tech companies in the country and what’s next now that they’ve become effective.
What do Mexico’s Copyright Law reforms consist of?
Gómez: They stem from the USMCA so that Mexico’s Copyright Law aligns with that of the other North American countries. In fact, these reforms are quite similar to the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed a few years back.
The three important changes and they’ve also been major sources of controversy as of late:
1. The addition of the infamous “takedowns”. These legal mechanisms allow the copyright owner to request that any online provider—such as a social media platform— remove a post or published work because it violates copyright. However, this is nothing new.
The DMCA has already been using this mechanism for some time now and I’m sure more than one of your readers has used this mechanism on Facebook, Instagram, or even Twitter.
What’s interesting is that this point has been viewed as “censorship” by many because content must be removed following a simple complaint of copyright infringement. However, the law also contemplates “counter-claims.”
In other words, a mechanism that allows the person who posted the content to demonstrate they have the rights to publish that material. Should they prove to have the faculties and rights to do so, the content is re-uploaded.
Moreover, a takedown request doesn’t imply initiating another procedure, like legal action, for example.
2. The reforms address access control technologies (e.g. Digital rights management or DRM tools) and it becomes a federal crime to break these security mechanisms. Access control technologies serve to avoid copyright infringement over digital content.
This doesn’t mean we can’t fix our computers or that we can’t hire cybersecurity experts to test our systems.
In fact, the law addresses many of these scenarios as exceptions, including for research and development purposes in science or academia. [These reforms] must be understood as a way to face piracy and the blackmarket which unfortunately lead to significant losses for authors and artists.
3. A number of provisions within the Federal Criminal Code were changed to sanction violations primarily of access control technologies.
How can these reforms help or hurt small, tech-based businesses like startups and their users?
Gómez: Copyright protection promotes creativity and that greatly benefits startups, especially those that work with technology since these reforms bolster protection for their products.
Furthermore, I believe that this creates healthy competition among Mexican, American, and Canadian businesses as it places us all at the same level of copyright protection with practically identical mechanisms that address piracy among the three countries.
In reality, the only people or entrepreneurial projects that might be hurt by these reforms are those accustomed to violating access control technologies.
Nonetheless, it’s a valuable opportunity entrepreneurs have to learn about intellectual property as there are many options to obtain licenses or legally transfer rights which will lead to developing more legitimate activities.
When it comes to these reforms, what comes next?
Gómez: First off, these reforms have not only been approved but are now effective in Mexico.
So now it’s necessary that entrepreneurs, users, and copyright holders learn about the implications of these changes because, unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation floating around on the internet. If they don’t receive expert advice, there can be serious consequences when it comes to protecting their intellectual property.
Secondly, online services must implement the policies and mechanisms that the law and reforms cover. One can also expect parties to integrate systems that help detect copyright violations.
It’s been said that these measures lead to censorship, is this possible?
Gómez: I think there’s a huge difference between censorship and piracy, which is what the law wants to regulate.
Besides, it’s necessary that we start giving artists and authors the respect they deserve. It’s all too common to hear someone is using the work of a third party without their consent and there’s a lot of misinformation that “if we saw it on the internet” then it’s free for use, when that’s not the case.
What’s worse is that through these actions we hurt others in many ways. A lot of work is protected by copyright and it’s what gives people jobs and sustains tons of families—it’s the livelihood of artists and authors.
Plus, let’s not forget that these reforms didn’t change pre-existing regulations for exceptions and that Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other businesses have been implementing these measures for years as a result of DMCA in the United States.
And up until now, people are still using memes [without being jailed or fined for it].
Unfortunately, with any good thing in the world, there will always be someone who wants to misuse it. So I can’t say this law is la vie en rose, but it’s important we understand these reforms.
If we fail to grasp how the law works, we can’t determine when a situation is misused for a purpose other than copyright protection, concludes Gómez.
Mexico’s Copyright Law in short…
As bad as the reforms may appear on social media, their core goal to respect the work of creatives everywhere.
Applying the letter of the law to reduce infringement will encourage artists and authors to continue making work we love to read and listen to.
This also favors tech startups as it offers more legal protection to shield their own creations and keep serving them up for us to enjoy.
And more importantly, the law contemplates exceptions so we can take our laptops for maintenance as well as post memes on the internet.
So rest assured, there is no legal barrier to stop your tías from sending you those Tweety Bird posts you love so much on WhatsApp.
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