Enhancing foreign copyright owners rights

Myanmar's Copyright Law (referred to as "the New Act"), which was enacted on May 24, 2019, has come into effect on October 31, 2023, as per Notification No. 218/2023 dated October 18, 2023, thereby repealing the Myanmar Copyright Act of 1914 (referred to as "the Old Act").

Similar to copyright laws in many other countries, copyright protection in Myanmar is now granted automatically upon the creation of a work. As a result, registering copyrights in Myanmar is considered optional but recommended for enforcement purposes.

Aligned with international copyright protection standards, the New Act encompasses various categories, including:

  • Literary works, including computer programs
  • Dramatic works
  • Artistic works
  • Musical works
  • Audiovisual works, such as cinematographic works
  • Architectural works
  • Works of drawings, applied art, fine art
  • Photographic works
  • Textile design
  • Any other works in the literary, scientific, or artistic nature

In contrast to the Old Act, which only protected works first published in Myanmar or created by Myanmar citizens or residents with a protection term extending to the creator's life plus thirty years after their death, the New Act introduces several key and positive changes:

  • Myanmar is not a member of the Berne Convention. Therefore, copyright works created abroad must be published in Myanmar within 30 days following their creation date to receive copyright protection in Myanmar, unless the work is created by a Myanmar citizen.
  • It now covers related rights, including the exclusive rights of performers, phonogram producers, and broadcasting organizations. These rights extend not only to communication to the public but also cover importation, uploading to the internet, and selling to the public for distribution purposes.
  • Existing copyrights and related rights will continue to be protected for the term provided in the new law if those rights under the Old Act have not yet expired at the time the New Act takes effect.
  • The New Act does not affect contracts executed before its entry into force for copyright works, performances, phonograms, and broadcasts.
  • The introduction of the Collective Management Organization (CMO) is a new feature, with details about its formation and responsibilities outlined in the New Act. Regulations related to the CMO may be issued concurrently with the New Act or at a later date.
  • The concept of Fair Use, which allows the use of copyrighted works for private study, non-commercial research, criticism, review, or newspaper purposes, is now incorporated.

The Ministry of Commerce issued Copyright Rules under Notification No. 70/2023 on October 23, 2023. Forms and fees for registration should become available soon.

What is not covered under Copyright Law:

Copyright or related rights protection does not extend to ideas, procedures, methods of operation, mathematical concepts, principles, discoveries, or data, although it may protect the specific expressions of these concepts.

Ways to protect your copyright in Myanmar:

Copyrighted works are automatically protected, but collaboration with the Collective Management Organization (CMO) is an option. Digital rights management and registration with the IP Office in Myanmar are optional but recommended for enforcement purposes. Customs recordation is also available and will be an effective tool in preventing the importation of counterfeits.

Protection term:

Under the New Act, the standard term of copyright protection is the lifetime of the author plus 50 years from the year following the author's death for literary or artistic works. For other types of copyright works, the term is 50 years from the year following creation or publication, except for photographic and applied art works, which are protected for 25 years from the year following their creation. Related rights are protected for 50 years from the year following their creation, except for broadcasts, which have a protection term of 20 years from the year following the broadcast.

Copyright infringement:

The New Act includes measures to address infringement, such as the unauthorized distribution, transmission, and replication of copyrighted works, commercial use of infringing goods, and their importation into Myanmar. The minimum penalty for such offenses includes imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine of at least 1 million kyats (equivalent to 500 USD), or both. Repeat offenses carry harsher penalties, including imprisonment for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 10 years, along with a fine of up to 10 million kyats (equivalent to 5,000 USD).

The new Copyright Law also introduces border control measures.