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Chile: Why do we Need Exceptions to Copyright?

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

In a previous post we explained how copyright can clash with freedom of expression. But are there legal alternatives in a copyright system that is increasingly restrictive? If all works are always an interpretation of other works, can we have access to them without necessarily becoming “delinquents”? The good news is that yes, we can, although there are limitations. Here we try to explain why.

The problem

In general, the copyright system gives the author of a work certain rights to use that work, in an exclusive manner and for a period of time consisting of the entire life of the author of the work plus 70 years (in Chile). These “rights to use” can only be exercised or authorized by the author or “owner” of the copyright of the work. In short, these copyrights consist of making any copy of the work (reproduction), making the work available to the public (public communication), modifying the work (modification), distributing the work or publishing it.

If we also take into account that it’s not necessary to register a work for it to have this legal protection, there are a series of daily actions and activities that become complicated from a legal standpoint. For example, quoting from a textbook or photocopying part of a book would infringe on the right of reproduction. There are many examples: playing a song at a party or projecting a movie at home would go against the right of public communication; making a parody of another person’s work would infringe on the right of adaptation.

A model like this one, presented as an absolute, is unsustainable because in all situations we would have to get authorization from (and probably pay)  the owner of the copyright of the work, regardless of whether the purpose behind using the work is commercial, educational, journalistic, or artistic.

The way out


Note: The video above was created and uploaded three years ago.

Considering the information above, it is impossible to think of a copyright system without exceptions or limitations. These allow us to make certain uses with the public interest in mind, like using works in libraries, copying short fragments, showing movies in educational institutions, adapting books for people with disabilities and, where possible, regulating exceptions that allow creative uses of the works in line with the right of freedom of expression.

In Chile, thanks to the effort of organized civil society, the latest reform to a copyright law from 2010 allows some uses mentioned previously. Today, a library can make copies of its catalogue to preserve its books, it is legal to adapt a book to the braille format, it is possible to parody works, and we are allowed to make “incidental and exceptional” uses for special purposes

These freedoms -although scarce and not a solution to the problem of the growing inflation of copyrights (more rights, more years, more criminalization of infractions)- need to be put into practice to show that they don’t infringe upon authors and that, in fact, they are perfectly reasonable, especially in a platform like the Internet.

That’s why we think it’s important to be informed about exceptions to copyright in Chile. We have released a new video in the #NoTemasaInternet [es] (Don’t fear the Internet) campaign and will soon upload more material about this issue. We hope this material will become an invitation to reflect on how a copyright system that strikes a stronger balance between the interests of creators and the public can enhance works to unsuspected levels and help new forms of expression. Don’t fear copyright exceptions,#NoTemasaInternet [es].


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