Colombia’s Congress passed a bill implementing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States which will alter the country’s copyright laws.
With the new bill, Colombia ushers in a myriad of new laws that will crack down on piracy and counterfeiting, creating stricter penalties for offenders. One such law prohibits the transmission of TV signals over the internet and carries with it a potential prison sentence of four to eight years.
Customs officials now have the authority to seize and destroy “counterfeit and pirated goods and the equipment used to produce them” without “having to wait for a formal complaint from the rights holder,” according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Bill 201 is the latest attempt by the national government to make Colombia’s intellectual property laws fall in line with those of the United States. President Juan Manuel Santos wanted to finalize the agreement before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama for the Summit of the Americas, to be held in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena April 14 and 15. The hurried implementation of the bill has garnered criticism from those who feel the United States is forcing smaller countries to rush compliance with its stringent copyright laws without adequate public debate.
Former Executive Director of the Colombian Communications Regulation Commission Lorenzo Villegas told news website Terra Noticias, “The copyright framework of the FTA is broader and left several issues open to national legislation to be addressed and discussed. However, in an effort with little justification and little understood [the government] wanted to pass it expeditiously.”
“It would be interesting to analyze how other countries that have FTAs ??with the United States have implemented this regulation in order to ensure more balanced copyright laws in Colombia,” he added.
A similar bill was proposed earlier this year by Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras which was dismissed by analysts and prompted cyber attacks from the Internet hacking group Anonymous. The group resumed their attacks Tuesday, disabling the web pages of the Colombian president, vice president and Ministry of Commerce in protest.
The free trade agreement, which would eliminate tariffs and bolster trade between the two countries, was officially signed in 2006 and passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2011.