The Bill no. 510 [PDF], if passed, will empower the Panamanian copyright office to pursue filesharers directly without the intervention of the government and levy fines of up to $100,000 USD each. Worse even, the money recovered will not be going to the rights holders but, will be distributed to officials of the copyright office in form of bonuses. Beyond the fine, those who have been found guilty may also end up facing civil actions.
The bill gives immense powers to the copyright office allowing it “to impose fines on infringers, violating the general principles of law as ‘non bis in idem’ and ‘presumption of innocence’.” The bill has already been passed by the Congress and is awaiting approval from the executive branch. Ricardo Quijano, Minister of Commerce and Industry, said, “with the implementation of this new Act, our country [Panama] is being upgraded within the international and global context.”
Congressman Jose Blandon was of the view point that the act should be made public and citizens should be involved in writing of the bill thereby avoiding distrust among the Panamanians. But, the bill was never made public thus leaving out any space for public debate.
The translation of Article 155 of Bill 510 reads, “The Directorate General of Copyright may impose sanctions on collecting societies that violate their own rules and regulations, or commit acts that affect the interests of its members or by proxy, without prejudice of corresponding civil or criminal penalties.”
The translation of Article 157 reads, “…the Regulations be sanctioned administratively by the Directorate General of Copyright, after hearing the offender to a fine of one thousand dollars (B / 1,000.00) to one hundred thousand dollars (B 100,000.00) according to the seriousness of the offense, and the publication of the relevant resolution at the expense of the offender.”