March 26, 2003  ·  Lessig

The Mexican Congress is about to consider a revision to its copyright law. Among it many changes, the law will extend the term of copyright from life-plus-70 to life-plus-100. (And no doubt thus beginning yet another cycle of “harmonization” around the world.) Worse, at the end of the copyright term, the government has the right to charge royalties for works in the “public domain.”

This is apparently something new for government regulators. Usually governments nationalize first, and then (and as a result) kill the industry nationalized. Mexico plans to innovate on this pattern: kill the public domain first, and then nationalize after.

The insanity in this system is astonishing. But here’s the message Mexico has got to understand: it will be easier for Mexicans to consume Hollywood content over the next 150 years than it will be for Mexicans to cultivate and preserve their own culture. Is promoting Hollywood really what the Mexican Congress is for?

  • nosilA

    I tried to find the text of this legislation on the site, but to no avail – my poor Spanish skills may be to blame for this. Term extension aside, I don’t understand the rationale behind the government collecting fees on works after the copyright has expired. And is this true if the work was originally created in a country other than Mexico?

  • Lilian Edwards

    One assumes the royalty after copyright has expired is designed to be routed into promoting authors/the arts in Mexico? Apparently this has been around as a potential model in Continental legal systems for some time – the “paying public domain” – it was being discussed (favourably, of course) by the authors’ rep at the workshop on the Public Domain we ran at Edinburgh a few weeks back. Effectively it makes more sense to think of it as a tax on the public to promote the arts, than a copyright extension – which may be little consolation for those foreseeing harmonisation, but makes sense for a developing country trying to find financial backing for what I suspect WILL be indigenous mexican culture rather than Hollywood imports. So not so paradoxical as it first looks.

  • nosilA

    I am all for the idea of the Goverment supporting the arts, but this seems like an odd way to go about it. In essence, it is taxing those who are creating the new (derivative) art. Would it not make more sense to tax the consumers – through the general tax fund – rather than the creators?

  • edmz

    this comes from the same political party that decided that all footwear except below-the-ankle shoes were a luxury, so they got taxed more. Yeah, that includes working and security boots.

    This bill seems to be caused by politicians trying to “solve” the great piracy problem that currently affects the country. We are number 2 on music piracy, after China, and this is a hot issue right now.

  • Felipe Sanchez

    I think you shoukd check first the source of this information. There’s not a single reference about this issue in the Mexican Congress site nor in the Mexican news sites I checked.

    Besides, maybe there is a misunderstanding here. The Federal Copyright law states that the Government may collect the patrimonial benefits *if and only if* the copyright holder dies and there is no one who can legally inherit the copyright.

    Anyway, any email from a alleged company formed by “almost 10 IP experts” (Almost? 9 1/2 maybe?) and with a final sentece asking you to “Share this important notice” sounds to me like yet another e-mail hoax.

  • diego sanchez

    Si M�xico tomo la decisi�n de extender el t�rmino de los derechos de autor, lo hace porque se tiene el modelo de legislaci�n de propiedad intelectual de los EStados Unidos de Am�rica, que a su vez la extendi� con la Ley Bonno. Es muy posible que las legislaciones latinoamericanas acerca de los derechos de autor extiendan a suz el t�rmino de 75 a 100 o m�s a�os, debido a la presi�n de varios grupos econ�micos multinacionales ( industria fonogr�fica, farmac�utica entre otras )

  • Anonymous

    No doubt the copyright term extension is modelled after the recent one in the US, Diego, which in turn had the excuse that “that’s the way europeans do it”. This is what Larry is talking about when he mentions ‘yet another cycle of “harmonization” around the world’, but the subsequent tranfer of ownership to the Government vs. the public domain is new, and stupid. Like Felipe, I can’t find any official reference to this in mexican websites, and agree that the email where it’s mentioned may not be real: bad english, no references, not even on the email producing company’s website.

  • Bruno Lopes

    It would be good if it was bogus, but it looks like it isn’t. Check it out in (thanks Slashdoters!).

  • Ernesto Pardo Arroyo

    I’ve followed this new and all the comments about it from to here. I’m mexican and I haven’t heard or read anything about to change the Copyright law, but I’ve read all the changes to the taxes applied to copyright. You can find them in this web site -of course, you’ll get more info in the Spanish section- :

    Also I would like you could read this article (in Spanish) from a Mexican newspaper wich said there was a modification to “la Ley de Propiedad Industrial” which said that a salubrity council could declare a sickness “serious” so the mexican goverment will allow any lab to have access to the formula to make “cheaper” copies of it. Therefore, this is a treat against pharmaceutic industry copyrights.

  • Anonymous

    Mexico is a surreal country. The government pursues everything in it’s power to NOT encourage the small people’s growth. This is just another example. We are in fact, as Zinser mentioned, the backyard of the US. Our politicians are not only insane but clever enough to steal even future posibilities form the People….