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Copyright protection has become a sensitive issue worldwide

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Increasing globalization and rapid proliferation of technology has led to an increasing need to protect copyright.

More and more organizations are falling victim to attacks and exposures and, in globally 2023, the average cost of a data breach was an all-time high of $4.45 million - a 2.3% increase from the previous year and a 15.3% rise from 2020.

But it is not just breach of copyright coming under the spotlight – so too are the regulators and authorities overseeing the sector.

Take Georgia, for example.

Since 2019 the Georgian Government has been attempting to update its copyright regulations, aiming to bring them into alignment with international standards and practises. New legislation has been introduced to this end but this has been beset by delays due to a combination of factors.

These include Covid, the war in Ukraine and also perceived lobbying by international organisations.

The organisation which oversees copyright in the country is the Georgian Copyright Association (GCA).

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It is argued by some that existing copyright legislation in the country falls short of modern standards and also that “ambiguity” in the draft government legislation itself has led to various interpretation issues, resulting in problems within the industry.

The proposed bill is founded upon three fundamental principles: transparency, good governance and accountability.

The package of changes was prepared with the support of various bodies, including the National Intellectual Property Centre of Georgia, or Sakpatenti; the Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) of the United States Department of Commerce and the Economic Governance Program and the Economic Security Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Union.

The bill is thought to have support from many Georgian authors and composers although hundreds of creators have reportedly left the GCA as a result of a long conflict due, they say, to their legal rights allegedly being infringed. It has also been claimed that royalties have gone unpaid and those who remain GCA members have protested about such issues.

The problem is seen as two-fold:  firstly the CGA is accused of seeking to “maintain its powerbase” and, secondly, introduction of the legislation has been delayed.

A war of words has now broken out over the thorny issue of copyright reform.

One the one side are those who are pressing for urgent change and who support the legislation while, on the other, is the umbrella representative body for authors. This is unhappy with the legislation and has urged a rethink.

A letter signed by some of those who have left the association states that the “process of amending the law has already dragged on for years. We agree this cannot be considered international best practice.”

It says they fully support “the key goal” of the planned Bill which is “to bring Georgian legislation in line with international and EU norms.”

The letter says that “reputable US entities such as USAID and CLDP” have been actively involved in the preparation of the bill along with Georgian lawmakers, authors, local and foreign experts in the field.”

The bill, it goes on to state “is the product of joint, long and fruitful co-operation” with several organizations.

The letter concludes: “We do not accept any interference that would hinder the achievement of the stated goals and that would not in any way reflect EU best practices and international norms.”

“We plan to firmly defend the interests of Georgian authors.”

However, an umbrella body for authors and creators has called for the planned legislation to be amended or scrapped.

CISAC – the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – and others have raised objections to the legislation.

A letter from three organisations, and seen by this website, states there is a “pressing need to withdraw the proposed draft amendments to the Georgian Copyright Law.”

The letter, dated 30 May, was signed by CISAC, IFFRO (the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations) and SCAPR (the Societies’ Council for the Collective Management of Performers’ Rights).

It was sent to Eliso Bolkvadze, chairperson of the Culture Committee of the Parliament of Georgia.

It reads: “Our three organizations would support any legislative initiative aimed at developing solutions in line with internationally accepted standards and best practices, to enhance the system of collective copyright management in Georgia.”

It adds: “However, our analysis has identified several shortfalls, deficiencies and inconsistencies that would place the Bill out of step with international law and practices. As a result, the Bill would weaken the existing system of collective rights management, instead of strengthening it. It would thus be detrimental to both local and foreign rightsholders whose works are used in the country and whose livelihood depends on the good functioning of the collective management system in Georgia.”

It says: “For this reason, our global membership strongly objects to the current Bill and recommends a new consultation process is opened allowing local and international stakeholders an opportunity to discuss the Bill properly and paving the way for a new draft to be produced.”

Georgia was the first of the former Soviet republics to create its national patent service - “Sakpatenti” - in 1992.

All the major fields of intellectual property are now fully consolidated under Sakpatenti’s mandate, ranging from industrial property to copyright and related rights.

The National Intellectual Property Centre of Georgia is a government agency and determines policy in the field of intellectual property.

In May 18 2023 it issued a report on the GCA and the results of an audit.

According to the report, seen by this website, certain “shortcomings” were reportedly found. The audit report, which runs to some 140 pages, “reiterates the necessity for timely and effective measures to protect the authors’ property rights.”

It goes on, “At this stage, it is especially important to fill the gaps in the current legislation regarding the collective management of copyright and related rights. For this purpose, in partnership with CLDP, USAID, foreign experts, and the Culture Committee of the Parliament of Georgia a package of legislative amendments has been prepared and is planned to be considered by the Parliament in the near future.”

No-one from the GCA or CISAC was immediately available for formal comment but it is believed that all allegations are strongly and robustly refuted by both.

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