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Iran: New Copyright Law to Be Submitted to Parliament

(Nov. 7, 2017) Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has announced it is working closely with the Parliament Research Center and other relevant agencies to formulate a new copyright bill for submission to Parliament. (Minister of Communications and Information Technology: Copyright Law Is Outdated; New Copyright Law to Be Sent to Parliament, IRANIAN LABOUR NEWS AGENCY (Sept. 16, 2017) (in Persian).)  The newly appointed Information and Communications Technologies Minister, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, stated that the current copyright law, passed nearly half a century ago and based on the country’s trade law of the time, is outdated and inadequate for providing businesses with the protection they currently require.  (Id.; Qaanoon-e Hemaayat-e Hoqooq-e Mo’alafaan va Mosanafaan va Honar-mandaan [Act for Protection of Authors’, Composers’ and Artists’ Rights] (Jan. 12, 1970), Islamic Parliament Research Center website; Act for Protection of Authors, Composers and Artists Rights (Copyright Law) (Jan. 12, 1970), World International Property Organization (WIPO) website) (in English).)  Details of the law have not yet been released.

Effects of Copyright Infringement in Iran

Copyright infringement has become a significant problem for Iranian firms targeting the international market, with the lack of recognition of international copyright conventions reportedly hampering ties between local businesses and international developers.  (Hamed Jafari, Iran May Soon Modify Its Copyright Law, TECHRASA (Sept. 17, 2017); Rewriting Copyright Law Imperative, FINANCIAL TRIBUNE (Sept. 18, 2017).)  According to Azari Jahromi, “[u]nless the copyright issue is resolved, we cannot achieve our necessary and optimal growth.”  (Minister of Communications and Information Technology: Copyright Law Is Outdated; New Copyright Law to Be Sent to Parliament, supra.)  The head of Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace, Abolhassan Firouzabadi, echoed Jahromi’s concerns, urging the judiciary “to introduce a legal framework for enforcing copyright laws” and “take effective measures to protect original works of developers and put an end to online piracy.”  (Rewriting Copyright Law Imperative, supra.)  According to Firouzabadi, “[u]nless the authorities take necessary measures, and address the legal void, a substantial part of the economy will be hampered.”  (Id.)

Previously, Iran felt no need to become a party to any international copyright agreements, instead allowing the pirating and sale of foreign books, video games, movies, and other software to run rampant for years. Now that Iran has itself become a producer of software, however, the government has become aware of how copyright infringement is actually hurting its own domestic market. (Iran May Soon Modify Its Copyright Law, supra.)

Debate over Joining the Berne Convention

The adoption of the new copyright law would bring Iran a step closer to global intellectual-property-law standards and could pave the way for the country to join the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  (Id.; Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 331 U.N.T.S. 217, Sept. 9, 1886, as amended Sept. 28, 1979, WIPO website.) Adopting the Berne Convention would be welcomed by those writers and translators who see this as a way of ending what author Hossein Sanapour has called the “chaotic atmosphere” produced by the problem of “multiple translations” of the same work, as well as improving the quality of translations and pay of translators.  (Zahra Alipour, Is It Time to Tame Iran’s Lawless Publishing Sector?, AL-MONITOR (May 24, 2016).)  Sanapour also stated that joining the Convention would “encourage publishers to publish original works authored in Persian.”  (Id.)

Sanapour’s enthusiasm for adopting the Berne Convention is not universally shared, however. Editor and translator Khashayar Deyhimi believes that if the Convention were adopted, publishers would gain control over the translation process, resulting in a decline in quality if they failed to engage the most competent translators.  (Id.)  In spite of his belief in the concept of copyright, Deyhimi maintains that

given the present circumstances [in Iran], joining the Berne Convention will worsen the cultural, ethical and financial problems that already plague Iran’s publishing sector. … The current chaotic situation caused by irresponsibility and immorality—and the inefficiency of the judicial system—will make copyright laws irrelevant.  (Id.)

Deyhimi’s pessimistic view is shared by publishing manager Reza Hasheminejad, who believes that joining the copyright convention, while inevitable, will result in corruption, with the Iranian book market more affected than before “by nepotism and rent-seeking.  The publishers with more influence and connections will benefit more.”