Copyright reform in Myanmar

EIFL supports libraries in Myanmar as the country embarks on a new copyright system

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Left to right: Daw Myat Sann Nyein, Local Coordinator Yangon, EIFL eLibrary Myanmar Project, Teresa Hackett, EIFL's Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager and Dr Kay Thi Htwe, Director, National Library Nay Pyi Taw at a MOST-WIPO conference in Myanmar.

EIFL has been engaged in copyright work in Myanmar since 2013. We supported libraries as the new copyright law, adopted in 2019, was being developed and we provided recommendations to enable libraries to properly support students and researchers in Myanmar. The new law is not yet in force, and will be implemented by regulation.

During two visits to Myanmar in 2015, EIFL held discussions with the local library community, gave presentations on copyright to librarians and law students at Yangon University, and met with policy-makers. We provided advice to the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) Legal Affairs Committee on the copyright law reforms needed to support effective library services in Myanmar.

As a result, once the new law is in force, it will support important activities such as online education, document delivery and digital preservation by libraries and archives.

Background

Myanmar has been undergoing rapid political, social and economic development. In March 2016, the first civilian government took office following elections, heralding an era of legislative and administrative change after more 50 years of political isolation.

The 1914 Copyright Act of Myanmar was one of many laws that were being repealed. The 1914 law was based on the 1911 Copyright Act of the United Kingdom and although the law remained on the statute books, it was defunct.

The WIPO Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives (2015) found that while there were no specific library exceptions in the 1914 copyright law, two important provisions provided a good starting point for the new law under development. First, ‘fair dealing’ with any work for private study, research, criticism, review or newspaper summary was permitted. Second, copying was allowed for certain educational purposes e.g. use in schools, and making copies of short passages from published literary works for use in collections (that might be called course packs today).

On 9 July 2015, a new draft copyright law was published in Kyemon (The Mirror), a daily national newspaper. Read the full draft copyright law in Kyemon here (Myanmar language) or key points in the draft law here (in English).

It was vital that the new copyright law would support ambitious government plans to improve the quality of education and research, the transition to an open society, and Myanmar's status as a Least Developed Country (LDC).
 

A new copyright law to support the work of libraries

With more than 5,000 libraries in Myanmar, including a network of public libraries throughout the country’s villages and a recently formed consortium of academic libraries, libraries are a key part of the infrastructure for development in the new Myanmar.

The copyright law (2019) largely puts in place the building blocks to support modern libraries, education and research. There are new exceptions for private study, quotation, online teaching, course-packs, and use in virtual learning environments. Document delivery services, digital preservation by libraries and archives and the making of accessible format copies for persons with print disabilities is permitted.

The law has its shortcomings, for example, fair dealing was not carried forward into the new law, the newly introduced exceptions can be taken away by terms in licences, and the issue of orphan works is not addressed at all.

Nevertheless, as Myanmar looks to a new future, the new copyright law provides the basic, legal infrastructure needed to support libraries, education and research.

Read the copyright law (2019) here (in Kyemon newspaper, Myanmar language) or a summary of the new law here (in English).

Read a profile of Tin Win Yee, Leader Copyright Advocacy for Libraries, EIFL Annual Report (2019) here.

Timeline

2013 – 2020

Main activities and achievements

  • On 16-17 February 2015, EIFL attended a conference on the Establishment of a Modern and Development-Oriented Intellectual Property System organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and WIPO in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
  • On 19 February 2015, presentation to the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) on ‘Copyright and Advocacy: an introduction’.
  • On 19 May 2015, presentation at Yangon University Department of Law on ‘Copyright and Libraries’
  • In February and May 2015, meetings took place with representatives from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information.
  • Discussions were held with the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) Legal Affairs Committee and several library visits took place, for example, to the Parliament Library.
  • In March and May 2015, EIFL submitted written comments on the draft copyright law under development in cooperation with MLA, to the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Culture.
  • 3-4 September 2015: EIFL supported the participation of Daw Tin Win Yee, Copyright Coordinator, EIFL eLibrary Myanmar project and Daw Khin Sandar Win (MOST) at ‘Enabling Universal Access and Preservation of Knowledge through Libraries: Copyright Matters’, a regional seminar co-organized by EIFL in Kathmandu, Nepal;
  • 14 August 2016: Daw Mya Oo, Director National Library of Myanmar Yangon presented a paper titled, 'Copyright reform in Myanmar' at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2016 in Columbus, US.
  • In 2017, the MLA submitted suggestions - including EIFL’s recommendations - to Parliament when the copyright bill was being debated.
  • In May 2019, the copyright law was adopted. It included key EIFL/MLA recommendations such as support for online education, document delivery services, and digital preservation by libraries and archives.
  • In March 2020, EIFL published a review of Myanmar's copyright law (2019) available here.
     

Next steps

The new law, when implemented, will introduce many important changes. For example, for the first time foreign works in Myanmar will receive copyright protection necessitating a big shift in ‘copy culture’ - how people and institutions such as libraries access, copy, share and download books and other materials for work, study and leisure.

The new law is expected to be implemented by regulation about six months after the establishment of the Myanmar Intellectual Property Rights Agency (MIPRA). As a first step, on 6th March 2020, the Central Committee for Intellectual Property Rights (CCIPR) was established (Notification No. 18/2020 of March, 6 2020 published on May 8, 2020). The composition of the CCIPR was amended by Notification No. 21/2020 of March 18th, 2020.

The CCIPR has 30 members including the Minister of Commerce, and representatives from ministries such as the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Industry, IP experts and NGOs. It is chaired by the Second Vice President of Myanmar, U Henry Van Thio. CCIPR has several important responsibilities including developing national IP policies and strategies, providing IP training, and approving applications from institutions, such as libraries, wishing to be recognized as 'authorized entities' providing accessible format copies for people with print disabilities.

On 3 June 2020, CCIPR held its first meeting at the Ministry of Commerce in Nay Pyi Taw. See here for a report of the meeting.

EIFL looks forward to continuing to support the library community as Myanmar gets ready for its new copyright system.

Further reading

Read more about EIFL’s work in Myanmar: