Serbia's New Draft Copyright Law - A Partial Diff

Serbia is looking at reforming its copyright laws this year, and we have the proposed text. Our previous copy of the Serbian law dates back to 2005, back when the country was Serbia and Montenegro, and it's interesting to note the differences between the old law and this draft. Unfortunately, such differences (or "diffs" as we say in the tech world) aren't easy to spot automatically between two PDFs. This is one of the tribulations of having scattered laws stored as unstructured files: it's trickier than it needs to be to make comparisons between new and old versions. That's a problem that we hope to fix as we accumulate more laws into our own, structured, database (and as more governments and international organizations get better at exposing their own laws and regulations to the Web).

Until then, here's our manual guide to two of the more significant additions to Serbian copyright law:

Disability Exceptions

The new Serbian law has an explicit exception for "persons with invalidity" (Article 54):

For the needs of the persons with invalidity, it is allowed, without the permission of the author and without payment of the remuneration, to copy and distribute the work protected by copyright, if such a work does not exist in the required form, if its use is in direct connection with the invalidity of persons concerned and in the scope that is required by a specific kind of invalidity providing the copying and distribution has not been made for the sake of realizing direct or indirect commercial gain.

Disability exceptions are at the forefront of current discussions of international copyright, with WIPO currently debating a proposed Treaty on Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons to normalize these exceptions across the world.

Serbia's proposed provisions score plus points for not restricting the scope of their exception to just those with reading disabilities or the blind. Modern technology means that content can be improved for a whole range of sensory disabilities (like signing books for the many people born with hearing disabilities who develop reading problems).

Unfortunately, the Article makes no mention of one of the key limiting factors for many with disabilities right now: bypassing the digital rights management restrictions on existing digital content to transform it by themselves into a new, accessible form. Article 208 contains Serbia's anti-circumvention provisions, similar to the United State's DMCA; it's not clear from a first glance that those with disabilites can legally access their own media if they have to bypass DRM to transform it.

Detailed Regs on Copyright Collectives, Blank Media Levies

The structure of copyright collectives (collecting societies) has been reformed: the collectives will now have to negotiate fees with licensees, rather than set fees unilaterally, and there's a new regulatory body, the Commission for Copyright and Related Rights. (More details here.)

The 2005 law included an "author's right to special remuneration" — a levy placed on blank media, and technical devices "suitable for such reproduction" (Article 38) collected by copyright collectives. The details of how this is managed are also expanded upon in the new law, including a requirement that the remuneration has to be just and "take into account the probable damage suffered by the author when his work is copied without his permission for personal non-commercial use, the application of technical measures of protection and other circumstances that can influence the correct calculation of the amount of this special remuneration". That should make for some interesting battles between rightsholders and tech companies in this country.

(Thanks to Tatjana Brzulovic Stanisavljevic for this latest draft)