CAIRO: While legal experts welcomed the Ministry of Culture’s decision to crack down on websites violating intellectual property rights (IPR), they questioned its ability to implement it.
“It’s a good step by the Ministry of Culture,” Hossam Loutfi, legal counselor for the Association of Authors, Composers and Publishers told Daily News Egypt, “However the problem is not with the lack of decrees or laws, it’s with implementing them.”
Last month, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni issued a decree ordering the immediate shut down of any website that violates IPR laws and regulations.
The decree was issued on Aug. 31, in response to a complaint received by the Central Association of Audio and Visual Recordings Producers (CAVRP) indicating that websites are broadcasting their material without prior permission, in violation of their IPR.
“A number of websites stole songs from CAVRP and broadcast them repeatedly without authorization from the producers, who in this case are the rightful owners of the products in question,” the Ministry of Culture’s legal counselor Ashraf Ashmawy told Daily News Egypt.
According to a statement issued by the ministry, the CAVRP, also a member of the International Producers Association, are required to provide the ministry with a database of the rightful owners of products.
This database will then be approved by the Ministry of Culture’s Central Administration for Monitoring Artistic Products (CAMAP).
According to Ashmawy, artists should register themselves and their product at the CAVRP. However, Loutfi maintains that many artists aren’t registered.
The CAMAP’s responsibility lies in monitoring the websites and notifying the Ministry of Communications to shut down websites that breach IPR laws.
“The Ministry of Communications is the only authority that has the jurisdiction to shut down a website, but it cannot do it without a prior notification from the Ministry of Culture,” Ashmawy explained.
According to Loutfi, “Around 90 percent of the websites’ headquarters that are accused of stealing others intellectual property rights exist in America or Israel, not Egypt, and some are mobile, they keep changing their location, so it’s impossible to locate them,” he said.
“Even if we do, Egyptian laws don’t apply on them and there’s no cooperation between Egypt and the Interpol on crimes related to websites, so you can’t arrest them, that’s what led to the chaotic state of intellectual property rights’ theft we live in today,” Loutfi explained.
“We [the Association of Authors, Composers and Publishers] have filed several police reports against websites that violate the intellectual property rights of many artists, but the police said they couldn’t find the location or identity of the accused,” he added.
Ashmawy, however, said that the Ministry of Communications has the jurisdiction to close down any website in Egypt, even if its headquarters are located abroad.
“The ministry then notifies the responsible authorities abroad of its reasons for shutting down the website in Egypt and it’s up to the authority abroad to decide whether to shut down the website abroad or not,” he said.
Ashmawy stressed that the key to the culture ministry’s decree lies in the swift action to stop IPR violations by shutting down the website the same day a complaint is filed against it without having to wait for a court order.
“The Ministry of Communications can only shut down these websites temporarily until it gets a court order that supports its decision, if the court decides the Ministry of Communications made a mistake, then the ministry will pay a compensation to the website for shutting it down,” he said.
The ministry also stipulated that CAMAP issue a quarterly report with findings regarding monitoring the websites and the number of complaints filed against violations of IPR, according to the 2002 intellectual property rights law.
Last week, the Association for the Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed a law suit against the minister’s decree saying that it’s a violation of the freedom of information access and circulation.
The AFTE said the ministry should differentiate between punishing the violators and depriving the public from their right to access information.
Both Ashmawy and Loutfi criticized AFTE’s stance, stating that the toughest procedures need to be taken to fight these kinds of crimes.
AFTE issued a statement citing international human rights laws that guarantee people’s rights to the circulation of information and access to knowledge, including Article 19 of the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights.
“International laws don’t protect criminals who violate people’s rights, we need to do our best to fight these criminals,” Loutfi told Daily News Egypt.
“The whole government needs to work together to preserve the intellectual property rights of these artists, otherwise they will push them to stop making art altogether,” he said.