New law brings Cayman copyright into the digital age

New copyright legislation came into effect June 30, replacing legislation from 1956, with the copyright protections coming from the United Kingdom’s 1988 Copyright Act, which has been updated several times to keep up with digital innovations over the past 28 years.

The new rules cover creative works from hardcover books to video games, and that includes the movies and music duplicated and sold in some shops in Cayman. The updated copyright is one of the new ways the Cayman government hopes to enhance intellectual property protections in the islands. Government officials say they plan to introduce new trademark legislation later this year.

Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said last month, “Local artists and investors have been frustrated for many years by the lack of modern IP protection in Cayman, and clamored for improved rights. With copyrights, while previous legislation offered a level of protection, it was outdated to the point where local artists could not properly protect their digital music, images and other digital creations.

“If entrepreneurs know their works will be protected in Cayman, they have an incentive to locate here, create jobs here, and spend money in our economy. Furthermore, businesses such as Health City Cayman Islands, Cayman Enterprise City and the entities operating within them, as well as other individuals and businesses in Cayman who also benefit from IP protection, will be able to attract more investment interest.”

The Copyright (Cayman Islands) Order 2015 is a customized version of the U.K. legislation, said Sophie Davies, intellectual property attorney with HMS. The new law “widens the scope and makes it clearer,” she said.

The new law does not necessarily mean police will start raiding stores that sell bootleg movies. In most cases, “it’s up to the copyright holder to enforce the law,” Davies said.

Copyright holders can apply to the courts to seize infringing work and can sue for damages. Companies can also apply to the Customs Department to have infringing goods seized on their way into Cayman.

Davies said it is common for companies like Nike to apply for this type of customs seizure if they find counterfeit products being shipped across borders.

It’s up to the director of Commerce and Investment to enforce the copyright law if there is no complaint. The law gives the director police powers to investigate copyright infringement, such as making test purchases and entering a premises to inspect and seize goods.

The law makes it a criminal offense to sell or rent infringing material, such as a pirated movie. It is also now illegal to play a song on the radio without a license.

Trademarks Bill up next

Minister Panton said in June that he hopes to introduce a new Trademarks Bill in September.

“Under our current legislation, persons are unable to register their trade marks in Cayman without first obtaining protection in the U.K.,” he said. “Also, design rights are not currently protected by law in Cayman.”

New trademark legislation could allow people and companies to register brands and logos directly in Cayman.

“Copyrights, therefore, are just the beginning,” Panton said. “By allowing persons to register a range of IP rights in a more efficient, cost effective manner, we are assisting them in exercising their rights if anyone infringes upon them.

“This represents a major improvement to our commerce legislation, and to our reputation as a leading jurisdiction for all types of businesses.”