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Panama legislature passes copyright law with heavy fines for violators

The National Assembly of Panama [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday approved a controversial new copyright law [bill 510, PDF, in Spanish] that allows authorities to fine infringers without a trial or civil lawsuit. The bill would grant broad powers to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry [official website, in Spanish; press release, in Spanish] to impose fines of up to USD $100,000 [AP report] on individuals found to be in unlawful possession of copyrighted material. Critics of the legislation contend [RT report] that it concentrates too much power in the executive and violates free speech principles. Bill 510 was passed as part of a package of legislation intended to facilitate enactment of the US–Panama Trade Promotion Agreement [USTR materials] approved by Panama in 2007 and signed into law in the US in October 2011. The bill will now go to the executive branch to be signed into law.

Copyright infringement is an international concern. In June two of the founders of of the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay (TPB) [website] filed appeals in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], challenging their convictions for copyright violations [JURIST report] in a Swedish court after the Swedish Supreme Court [official website] refused to hear their appeal [JURIST report] earlier this year. The Swedish Svea Appeals Court [materials] upheld [JURIST report] the convictions of TPB founders in November 2011. Also in June the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruledin favor of Google [corporate website] in the case of Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc. [case materials], holding that Google did not infringe patents and copyrights [JURIST report] held by Oracle [corporate website] when it used Oracle's 37 Java application programming interface (API) packages for its Android operating system. In May JURIST Guest Columnist Sandeep Kanak Rathod, an LLM Candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, explored differences in copyright law in the US and India [JURIST comment], contrasting the judicial tests used in each country when courts evaluate infringement claims.

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