Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Maldivian Copyright Law: A Brief Look

A lot of Maldivians working in the arts and creative industries have been calling for an intellectual property law. At last, for the first time in this country, a comprehensive copyright law has been passed.

An intellectual property regime can be both a blessing and a curse. Before everyone jumps up and down celebrating, we have to look at what exactly is written in the said law.

I have had a very brief look at the draft available [direct pdf link], and it is has some glaring problems in my opinion. Some points that come to my mind.

1. The copyright period is way too long. The current law states a period of 50 years since the death of the author, in the case of multi-author, 50 years from the death of the last-dying author.

This is an overly long duration; something like 15 to 20 years is more reasonable in my opinion. Overly long, and restrictive copyright laws actually stifle creativity and innovation, rather than improve it. And it is very likely that this period will be increased to 75 and to 100 years by lobbyists anyway in the new future.

2. It makes it a punishable offense to use anti-DRM devices/software. For those unfamiliar with what DRM is, they can refer to a good writeup at Anti-DRM site.

In section 33 it states
"Haggu thah himaayai kurumah beynunkuraa fannee vaseelaithakaai rights management informations ge hagguthah”
It states in clause 33.(haa).1:
"Fannee masakkatheh nuvatha aduge recording eh nuvatha broadcast kuraa echheh alun nu ufeddheygothah hedhumahtakai nuvatha efadha kameh control kurumahtakai vaseelathehge gothun beynun kurumah ufaddhaafaivaa evves echheh ge beynun nuhifey gothah hedhun nuvatha ekamah huras alhan beynunkuraa nuvatha kuraane faraathakah vikkumah nuvatha kuyyah dhinumah evves kahala echeh ufeddhun nuvatha efadha ehcheh raajje etherekurun"
and in part 3 it states:
"Huddha akaa nulaa electronic rights management information negun nuvatha badhalu kurun"

I am not a lawyer, but i think the above two clauses actually makes it a punishable offense to use anti-DRM (digital rights management) software. In the law it states Electronic Rights Managemet, which is the same thing as Digital Rights Managment.

The equivalent law in US is DMCA, which has come under immense criticism, but we are duplicating that here. Such measures actually make it illegal to use open source software to watch DVDs (since they bypass region protection, a primitive form of DRM), and other software that cracks modern DRMs.

It gets more interesting; it actually makes it punishable the mere act of building such a thing, or raajje ah ethere kurun. Does that mean downloading such software will also be illegal? Downloading is also rajje ethere kuraning I guess.

And that part
"huras alhan beynunkuraa nuvatha kuraane faraathakah vikkumah"
puts a big liability on the developer or seller. How is the seller/developer to know how it will be used by the end user? Does this mean selling or giving or creating torrent software is illegal? After all torrent is predominantly used for copyright infringement. But should we penalize the developer for that? Isn’t that even a more draconian thing? Those two are just tip of the ice berg. Good thing it doesn’t cover patents! There are good reasons to oppose such draconian laws, rather than welcoming it with open arms.