Restore Balance, Protect Freedoms: Copyright Reforms in Mexico Need Rethinking
20 July 2020
There has been disappointing news from Mexico, where recent copyright legislation risks making access to information significantly harder, while also undermining the role of the judiciary and lawmakers. Local libraries and other actors are calling for a constitutional review.
In early 2019, IFLA published a statement warning of the negative consequences of a proposed law in Mexico which would have obliged the removal of content from the internet, purely on the basis of an allegation of copyright infringement.
Such a move would leave anyone wanting to share knowledge on the internet at risk of seeing their work made unavailable, without any need to offer proof.
In bypassing the legal system, this would not only undermine the role of judges, but also severely weaken free expression, harming creators and readers alike.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proposal has reappeared and been voted through the parliament with very little scrutiny, in the context of moves to implement the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement.
Furthermore, the new law introduces even tougher protections for digital locks. While these can be a helpful way of preventing piracy, IFLA has long argued that they should not be used to prevent the enjoyment of limitations and exceptions to copyright.
In imposing penalties for circumventing or removing such locks, even when they are blocking legitimate uses, the Mexican parliament risks undermining its own objectives in allowing for library activities such as preservation or private copying.
Steps to implement the Marrakesh Treaty are of course welcome, and should be retained, even as more questionable elements of the law are reviewed.
IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner said:
‘It is a shame to see the same bad ideas back on the table in Mexico, despite the concerns raised by IFLA and many others in the past. For the sake of fundamental freedoms in the country, we urge the government to step back from the extrajudicial enforcement of copyright through obliging takedowns of material purely on the basis of allegations of infringement, and overly broad protection for digital locks’
Finally, a further bill, currently under discussion, risks taxing a wide range of digital devices, such as memory sticks, computers and printers, with money to be gathered by collecting societies. While some public institutions may be spared this, academic libraries risk being affected.
More broadly, measures that will increase the cost of buying and using digital devices are not welcome. As highlighted in the Development and Access to Information framework, there are less than 60 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people in the country, and fewer than half of households have access to the internet or a computer. Such moves risks slowing efforts to bring everyone online.
Mexican librarians, with IFLA’s support, are working to support calls for a constitutional review, in order to ensure that the country does not pass laws that fail to protect the rights of library users and harm the ability of libraries to fulfil their missions.