Copyright reform in Myanmar

EIFL supports libraries in Myanmar as the country adopts 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 was being developed: 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 also provided recommendations to ensure that the new law allows libraries to provide students and researchers with the information resources they need. The Copyright Law (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No.15, 2019) was adopted in 2019, and it entered into force on 31 October 2023.

The new law introduces many important changes. It repeals the pre-existing law (1914 Copyright Act) and, for the first time, foreign works will receive copyright protection.

Protection for foreign works is granted to works first published in Myanmar, or published in Myanmar within 30 days of first publication in another country (Myanmar is not a member of the Berne Convention): this change represents a big shift in ‘copy culture’ - how people and institutions such as libraries access, copy, share and download books and other materials. In a transitional arrangement that will benefit libraries, copies of works lawfully made in the public interest under the 1914 Act may be distributed to the public for up to two years from entry into force of the law.

The new law also supports important activities such as online education, document delivery and digital preservation by libraries and archives.


Over recent decades, Myanmar has undergone rapid political, social and economic change. In 2016, the first civilian government was elected, after more than 50 years of political isolation, followed by further political upheavals.

The developments introduced an era of sweeping legislative and administrative change, including copyright law.

The 1914 Copyright Act of Myanmar was one of many laws that were repealed.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

The WIPO Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives (2017) 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 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).

In October 2023, the Copyright Law 2019 entered into force (see European Commission IP Helpdesk), available on WIPOLex here.

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 newly 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, orphan works 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.

Nevertheless, the new law provides a good foundation for the copyright infrastructure needed to support libraries, education and research.


2013 – 2023

Main activities and achievements


  • EIFL attended a number of national events and meetings in Myanmar - we participated in 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 (February); and gave presentations to the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) on ‘Copyright and Advocacy: an introduction’ (February) and at Yangon University Department of Law on ‘Copyright and Libraries’ (May).
  • We met representatives of three key ministeries - Science and Technology, Culture and Information (February and May).
  • We held discussions with the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) Legal Affairs Committee, and made visits to several libraries, for example, the parliamentary Library of the Assembly of the Union (known as the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw).
  • We submitted written comments on the draft copyright law, in cooperation with MLA, to the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Culture (March and May).
  • We supported participation of EIFL's Copyright Coordinator, Daw Tin Win Yee, EIFL eLibrary Myanmar project, and Daw Khin Sandar Win (MOST) at a regional seminar in Nepal co-organized by EIFL, ‘Enabling Universal Access and Preservation of Knowledge through Libraries: Copyright Matters’ on 3-4 September.

2016 - 2017

  • In 2016, EIFL supported the Director of the National Library of Myanmar Yangon, Daw Mya Oo, in preparing a presentation on 'Copyright reform in Myanmar' at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2016 in Columbus, US.
  • In 2017, the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) submitted suggestions - including EIFL’s recommendations - to Parliament when the copyright bill was being debated.

2019 - 2023

  • In 2019, the Copyright Law (Law No. 15, 2019) was adopted. The new law includes key EIFL/MLA recommendations, such as support for online education, document delivery services, and digital preservation by libraries and archives.
  • In 2020, EIFL published a review of Myanmar's Copyright Law 2019 available here.
  • In 2023 (October 31), the Copyright Law 2019 entered into force - full text available on WIPOLex here.

Further reading