The need to adjust our legal system to the technological advances in the computing and telecommunication field led to the passing of a new law (Law No. 64 of 2012) abolishing Law No. 15 of 1994. These changes were contemplated in the recent international agreements ratified by Panama, mainly by the entering into force of the Free Trade Agreement between Panama and the United States of America.

This article's aim is to show you ten of the most relevant aspects of Panama's new Copyright Law and related rights, summarized below:

  1. This new law increases the protection time period for the economic rights of authors, increasing same from fifty to seventy years;
  2. The Criminal Code is reformed so as to include new copyright crimes; 
  3. Border control is extended to avoid circulation of illegal products through customs.
  4. New definitions are added and the protection framework to new agreements such as the music publishing agreement and the broadcasting agreement is increased.
  5. It is reiterated that collective management corporations must be formed as nonprofit civil companies and that same can set management fees for rights corresponding to their associates or representatives at their own free will.  Nevertheless, if there is abuse on such fees, the affected party may request arbitration before the General Directorate of Copyright  (DGDA per its Spanish acronym) attached to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI per its Spanish acronym);
  6. The DGDA may fine and even order to close the operations of the collective management corporations.  The former law envisaged fines from one thousand (US$1,000.00) to twenty thousand (US$20,000.00) dollars and the new law establishes fines from three thousand (US$3,000.00) to fifty thousand (USD$50,000.00 dollars.
  7. New functions are granted to the DGDA.  By Article 152 of said legal excerpt the DGDA is granted the power to promote before the judicial authority, the obligatory enforcement of issued resolutions and compulsory collection of imposed fines.

Fines remain the same as in the former law, i.e. from one thousand (US$1,000.00 to USD$20,000.00) dollars depending on the offense.

The DGDA can also ex officio file a criminal complaint and order precautionary measures, whether ex officio or at the request of the interested party, as the suspension of non-authorized acts of communication to the public, seizure of copies reproduced illicitly and order their destruction if required.

  1. All sums received by DGDA  from rights for services rendered and fines do not go to the authors but same are for the improvement of the operative infrastructure of said directorate.
  2. DGDA decisions may allow appeals for reconsideration before the General Director of Copyright and appeals before the Minister of Commerce and Industry.
  3. The owner of the infringed right may in addition of the existing administrative appeals, file civil and criminal appeals.

Up to the present day, there are still many questions with regard to the interpretation and scope of several rules contained in this new law.  This is true especially concerning the technological observance of the copyright and related rights and therefore its regulation will be necessary to fill said loopholes.     

We recommend you to search for the required legal advice not only to register   the intellectual property work and enjoy inherent economic and moral rights but also to understand the scope of activities expressly forbidden and avoid being the object of administrative, civil and criminal procedures that may give rise to significant fines and even imprisonment.