Intellectual property and the implementation of US Free Trade Agreements in Latin America

From 2004, the United States has signed onto free trade agreements with nearly half of the countries in Latin America. As a product of these agreements, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Panama and other Central American countries agreed to enact new and more restrictive copyright laws, which can place important threats on the fundamental rights of internet users across the region.

A recent court decision in Colombia and a campaign initiative in Peru are good reminders that there is a long, but encouraging road ahead on these issues.


On January 23, the Colombian Constitutional Court announced that it will overturn Law Number 1520, better known as “Lleras 2.0”, holding that the Congressional Committee that reviewed the bill did not have jurisdictional power to enact it into law. A previous attempt to implement the Free Trade Agreement US-Colombia (“Lleras” law), was retired by the Colombian Congress thanks to the pressure coming from civil society and copyright experts on the negative impact that the “Lleras” Law would have on innovation and human rights in Colombia.

In order to secure quick approval without civil society involvement, Law 1520 (Lleras 2.0), was less ambitious than the original bill, which attempted to prohibit TV retransmission through the internet, punish the circumvention of Technical Protection Measures (i.e. bypassing a DVD ‘zone’), broaden the criminal offenses related to IP infringement, and force defendants to reveal the identities of other infringers.

Even within this narrowed scope, all of the “Lleras 2.0” provisions had a huge potential impact on fundamental rights, giving excessive power to TV stations to control the information flow over the internet and criminalizing digital users in Colombia, in addition to violating their privacy. All of these proposals were dangerously accompanied by a failure to arrive to balanced copyright laws or fair use provisions. Those issues were addressed by several amicus curiae drafted by organizations like Karisma Foundation and the Freedom of Expression Studies Centre (CELE) from Argentina.

Irrespective of the Constitutional Court’s motivations to overturn  Law 1520, this decision resumes the public debate about copyright and public interest in Colombia, suspended since the discussion of the first “Lleras Law”, and gives more room to have in-depth discussions over the future of Copyright and internet in that country.


Meanwhile, in Peru, the NGO Hiperderecho launched a new campaign called #internetesnuestra (“The Internet is Ours”), to create a public awareness campaign and help open the debate over the implementation of Intellectual Property provisions contained in the Peru-US Free Trade Agreement.  Specifically, the campaign focuses on the obligation of enacting IP infringement remedies over the internet, a “notice and takedown” system in the Andean country, and the revealing of the infringing users identities.

On its website, the campaign states that internet users had been kept out of the public debate, particularly troubling given that the new bill can override their human rights, such as their privacy, freedom of expression and access to knowledge . In order to create such debate and awareness, Hiperderecho crafted an open letter (in Spanish) asking the Peruvian government for more transparency and participation in the process. Also, they are working on an alternative bill that considers fundamental rights and public interests at stake.

As Miguel Morachimo from Hiperderecho wrote here a couple months ago: “a balanced national ISP copyright liability law, respectful of due process considerations and fundamental rights, will be a strong argument to oppose further restrictions on digital copyright.”