Monday, March 21, 2005

Ghana Bill Would Mandate Security Protection

The President of Ghana has stopped short from signing a copyright bill that was passed by parliament and would mandate security protection for CD's and DVD's. Clause 25 of the bill states:
A manufacturer, importer or publisher of sound or audio visual recording shall on the minister, purchase security device from the Internal Revenue Service as may be required to cover the number of copyright works the manufacturer, importer or publisher intends to sell or distribute.

A person who sells or exhibits for sale a copyright work without a security device obtained from the Internal Revenue Service affixed to its commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 500 penalty units.
I don't know what 500 penalty units are, but it sounds scary to me. The so-called Coalition of Concerned Copyright Advocates (COCCA) expressed its concerns over the clause, which prompted the President to ask for further investigation. The COCCA noted that the clause is inconsistent with Ghana's Constitution and article 9(1) of the Berne convention, which states:
Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this convention shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of their works in any manner or form.
Since security protections would be mandatory and would be limited to those proscribed by the Internal Revenue Service both the freedom not to protect works and to choose its own preferred protection would be harmed. So, no free dissemination of content, no creative licensing models. And while the analogy with the mandatory regime of the US broadcast flag is false, which leaves the freedom to choose for protection to the copyrightholder, there are striking similarities in the problems it may cause for innovation, effectiveness of the security regime and user's rights. But, that's not even the issue here: copyrightholders themselves would feel the wrath of badly crafted IP policy.
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News articles: 1, 2


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