New era for copyright in Myanmar
The building blocks to support modern libraries, education and research are largely in place in Myanmar’s new copyright law

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Young man studying at the computer in Myanmar library.
Myanmar's new copyright law enables key activities such as the delivery of online education, digital preservation, and the provision of document delivery services by libraries.

In May 2019, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar adopted a new copyright law, repealing the previous law enacted over a century ago, in 1914. The new law introduces many important changes. For example, the term of protection is extended from life of the author plus 30 years to life plus 50 years and, for the first time, foreign works in Myanmar are copyright-protected.

EIFL reviewed the new law against our ‘Core Library Exceptions Checklist’, that sets out provisions that every copyright law should have to support modern library activities and services. It scored a respectable 63% in EIFL’s scorecard ‘Rate my copyright law’, in recognition of the fact that key activities are enabled such as the delivery of online education, digital preservation, and the provision of document delivery services by libraries. The review is based on an unofficial translation of the new law.

There are shortcomings. A major weakness of the new law is that exceptions can be taken away by terms in licences, threatening to undermine the newly introduced exceptions when applied to digital content, undercutting support for distance education. It is also a pity that the issue of orphan works is not addressed, and that the law does not contain a flexible fair use-type exception that would have given it added longevity (the outdated 1914 law had fair dealing).

Nevertheless, as Myanmar looks to a new future after more than 50 years of political isolation under military rule, the building blocks are largely in place to support the work of modern libraries, education and research.

EIFL congratulates Myanmar on its new copyright law, and looks forward to supporting the library community when the law is enacted (expected some months after the opening of the new national Intellectual Property office).

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