Mauritius passes the Copyright Act 2014 on 2 April 2014

The long awaiting new Copyright law was finally voted on Tuesday, 2 April late in the evening. The main objective of the new Copyright Act (Act) is to make the Mauritius Copyright law compliant with the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonogram Treaty. The Act also creates the Rights Management Society (Society) which will replace the existing Mauritius Society of Authors.

The Rights Management Society

The Society comprises of a Director who is appointed by the Board. The Director is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Society and executes the policy of the Board.

As regards the functions of the Society which are set out in s. 45, they are for the benefit of the members. It will be incumbent on the Society to determine the criteria for, and classes of, membership. The Society is required to represent and defend the interests of its members in Mauritius and abroad. A close reading of the functions of the Society reveals that the Society will act only for the benefit of its members. In other words, a person who is not, or is not admitted as a member of the Society, will very unlikely be able to rely on the Society to defend his or interests. An individual right holder may have to manage his copyright or related rights or empower his lawfully authorised agent under a written contract of agency or power of attorney to so on his or her own behalf.

In line with international best practices, the Act allows for the establishment of private collecting and management societies. Indeed, membership to the Society is voluntary. Under s. 42 of the Act, right owners may manage their copyright and related rights themselves or by through an agent lawfully appointed by them.

Salient features of the Act

The main features of the Act include the following:

  • Prohibiting the circumvention of effective technological protection measures: it is an offence under the Act to circumvent effective technological protection measures. The production, importation, distribution, sale, rental, advertisement for sale or rental, of devices, products, components or services, or the possession of  devices, products, components or services for commercial purposes that are, for example, primarily designed, produced, adapted or performed for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological protection measures is prohibited.
  • Protection of rights management information: a person cannot remove or alter any electronic rights management information without the consent of the right holder. The Act also prohibits the distribution, importation for distribution, broadcasting or communication to the public of works or other subject matter protected under the Act from which electronic copyright management information has been removed or altered without the authorisation of the right owner when such act or removal or alteration will induce, enable, facilitate or conceal an infringement of any right covered by the Act.
  • Protection of related rights: The provisions of the Act relating to the protection of performers also apply to performers taking part in a performance taking place in Mauritius, or which is  incorporated in phonograms that are protected under the Act, or which has been fixed in a phonogram but is included in broadcasts protected under this Act.  The Act also applies to performers, producers of phonograms, broadcasting organisations and originating organisations which are eligible for protection by virtue of and in accordance with any international convention or other international agreement to which Mauritius is a party.
  • Protection of derivative works:  The protection of any derivative work is be without prejudice to any protection of a pre-existing work or traditional cultural expression or expression of folklore incorporated in or utilised for the making of such a work.
  • Visually impaired persons: Under the Act, it is permitted, without the authorisation of the author or other owner of copyright, to reproduce a published work for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled in an alternative manner or form which enables their perception of the work, and to distribute the copies exclusively to those persons. Two pre-conditions must be satisfied: first, the work is not reasonably available in an identical or largely equivalent form enabling its perception by the visually impaired, and second, the reproduction and distribution are made on a non-profit basis.

Conclusion

The enactment of the new Copyright Act is only one step forward towards modernising the intellectual property rights environment in Mauritius. The Honourable Minister responsible for the subject of copyright informed the National Assembly that the setting up of an Intellectual Property Office is in the pipeline. Furthermore, as rightly stated during the course of debates at the National Assembly on the 2 April, the Society must be managed professionally and the running costs of the organisation must be reduced considerably so that sufficient funds are available to be distributed to copyrights holders in the nature of royalties.