[Music Monday] Revisiting Indonesia's Copyright Law

Indonesia is a democratic country, at least by principle. Well, at least, the word "democratic" doesn't come with quote marks anymore, as it did during the time of the New Order. Now, a democracy will either vote or discuss on everything, or appoint representatives to do all the voting and discussing, and thus deciding on whatever is going to be enacted into law, to be followed and safeguarded by the executive branch (just to remind you, this means the President and his government). Now what does this have to do with the digital music business? The law, that's what.

Being basically a content-based business, the music industry is highly influenced by copyright laws - how the government sees the issue regarding copyright and how it thinks it is best implemented. And of the million things that need regulation in the country, Indonesia's most recent copyright law was signed into law in 2002, under President Megawati Soekarnoputri. Albeit according to some still lacking in some areas, the upgraded legislation added some much-needed law protection for works of cinematography to computer programs, as the earlier version of the copyright law was signed into law in 1979.

One of the most interesting clauses of the law, at least within the music industry context, states that "unless previously agreed by the Creator, technological control methods for safeguarding the rights of the Creator must not be broken, removed, or made to not function". The next clause goes on to explain that creations using high-technology, such as optical discs, must follow all government regulations and any requirements from related authorities. There are also protection clauses for music producers (read: music labels) and broadcasting companies (read: the television stations), other than the creator/composer. These clauses were also a major upgrade from the previous version of the law.

Here's where the democracy comes in: any upgrade to an existing law - or even a creation of a new one - really depends on what issues DPR (the House of Representatives) has the most immediate need for regulation. Whatever the DPR deems important is based on their own personal beliefs, any direction from their political affiliations, and direct input from the people. This is where usually lobbying comes in - to make sure certain issues and interests are properly represented in DPR and therefore appropriately benefited by revised legislation.

So, during the drafting of the 2002 Copyright Law, lobbyists from the recording companies, television stations and the CD/DVD production companies (along with the content owners) made sure that they had proper protection within the revised law. And note that, in the 2002 Copyright Law, "Producers of Sound Recordings retain the exclusive right to give permission or forbid other parties who without authorization duplicate and/or rent works of sound recordings or audio recordings".

Therefore in this respect, music piracy is a crime - and the 1979 Copyright Law did not have such clear wording on this. So, music piracy is a crime by law, but also because DPR and the recording companies defined it as such. But keep in mind, consideration of this law also takes treaties from the World Intellectual Property Organization into account, as the 2002 law ratifies them also.

So here's the takeaway: copyright law in Indonesia makes it illegal to upload unauthorized music files to file sharing networks, and it's also illegal to circumvent DRM to access and/or duplicate music content. It also makes it illegal for sites to distribute unauthorized content, as it is deemed as unauthorized file duplication. The unfortunate thing about law in Indonesia, is its enforcement (or lack thereof) - only recently the government has taken action towards illegal file sharing sites, even then after frequent lobbying by the industry.

So, the law is clear about piracy, whether or not it is a relevant issue in developments in content consumption. So the question is, should it become a problem for you, or an opportunity?

Ario is a co-founder of Ohd.io, an Indonesian music streaming service. He worked in the digital music industry in Indonesia from 2003 to 2010, and recently worked in the movie and TV industry in Vietnam. Keep up with him on Twitter at @barijoe or his blog on http://barijoe.wordpress.com.




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