As you know from other posts here and here, the House of Representatives is debating an Internet Bill which is framed as a “constitution for the Internet” and, as such, it purports to establish fundamental principles which should be followed on the Internet. Among the principles mentioned in the Bill are freedom of expression, privacy protection, neutrality, the preservation of the participative nature of the Internet.
However, the Internet Bill omits a key principle in our view. The principle of respect for copyright and intellectual property.
It is undeniable that much of the appeal and usefulness of the Internet is based on the transmission of content protected by copyright and intellectual property fruit of the creativity of authors and investments.
Without this content, the Internet would lose much of its practical use and become virtually a huge worldwide network of empty servers and connection terminals.
Thus, it seems inconceivable that the proposed Internet Bill does not incorporate a clause among its general principles of respect for intellectual property rights alongside other principles expressly provided in its Article 3.
Regardless of the debate about the limits of copyright protection that deserve to be dealt in the reform of the Copyright Law, the Internet bill cannot ignore the need to respect copyright and intellectual property as a fundamental premise for laying the foundation of the Internet in an ethical basis.
This is without even mentioning the fact that the Internet bill also has an “educational” function, to convey to the public the principles that should govern the use of the Internet and that, given the relevance of works protected by copyright for the functioning and utility of the network for users, this omission represents a loss of an important opportunity to educate people about the respect for copyright and intellectual property.
Just as importantly, it runs the risk of the Courts understanding that intellectual property rights in the Internet should be treated as “second-tier rights”, less relevant than other principles set out expressly in Article 3 and that in cases of conflict would almost necessarily yield to the latter, when this analysis should be conducted in a careful and balanced fashion.
This omission seems to be an option the legislators based on an understanding that intellectual property is an obstacle to innovation and the participatory nature of the internet.
The inclusion of a principle of respect for copyright and intellectual property does not make the Internet more or less “free”, nor hinder access to information, knowledge or innovation, quite the contrary.
Rodrigo Borges Carneiro