EIFL has been engaged in copyright work in Myanmar since 2013. We supported libraries as the new copyright law was being developed: during two visits to Myanmar in 2015, EIFL held discussions with the local library community, gave presentations on copyright to librarians and law students at Yangon University, and met with policy-makers.
We also provided recommendations to ensure that the new law allows libraries to provide students and researchers with the information resources they need. The Copyright Law (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No.15, 2019) was adopted in 2019, and it entered into force on 31 October 2023.
The new law introduces many important changes. It repeals the pre-existing law (1914 Copyright Act) and, for the first time, foreign works will receive copyright protection.
Protection for foreign works is granted to works first published in Myanmar, or published in Myanmar within 30 days of first publication in another country (Myanmar is not a member of the Berne Convention): this change represents a big shift in ‘copy culture’ - how people and institutions such as libraries access, copy, share and download books and other materials. In a transitional arrangement that will benefit libraries, copies of works lawfully made in the public interest under the 1914 Act may be distributed to the public for up to two years from entry into force of the law.
The new law also supports important activities such as online education, document delivery and digital preservation by libraries and archives.
Myanmar has undergone rapid political, social and economic developments. In 2016, the first civilian government took office following elections, introducing an era of legislative and administrative change after more 50 years of political isolation.
The 1914 Copyright Act of Myanmar was one of many laws that were repealed. The 1914 law was based on the 1911 Copyright Act of the United Kingdom and although it had remained on the statute books, it was in effect defunct.
The WIPO Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives (2015) found that while there were no specific library exceptions in the 1914 copyright law, two important provisions provided a good starting point for the new law under development. First, ‘fair dealing’ with any work for private study, research, criticism, review or newspaper summary was permitted. Second, copying was allowed for certain educational purposes e.g. use in schools, and making copies of short passages from published literary works for use in collections (that might be called course packs today).
On 9 July 2015, a draft copyright law was published in Kyemon (The Mirror), a daily national newspaper (read the full draft copyright law in Kyemon here (Myanmar language) or key points in the draft law here (in English).)
A new copyright law to support the work of libraries
With more than 5,000 libraries in Myanmar, including a network of public libraries throughout the country’s villages and a newly formed consortium of academic libraries, libraries are a key part of the infrastructure for development in the new Myanmar.
The copyright law (2019) largely puts in place the building blocks to support modern libraries, education and research. There are new exceptions for private study, quotation, online teaching, course-packs, orphan works and use in virtual learning environments. Document delivery services, digital preservation by libraries and archives and the making of accessible format copies for persons with print disabilities is permitted.
The law has its shortcomings, for example, fair dealing was not carried forward into the new law, the newly introduced exceptions can be taken away by terms in licences.
Nevertheless, it provides a good foundation for the legal infrastructure needed to support libraries, education and research.
Read a profile of Tin Win Yee, Leader Copyright Advocacy for Libraries, EIFL Annual Report (2019) here.
2013 – 2023
Main activities and achievements
- On 16-17 February 2015, EIFL attended a conference on the Establishment of a Modern and Development-Oriented Intellectual Property System organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and WIPO in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
- On 19 February 2015, presentation to the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) on ‘Copyright and Advocacy: an introduction’.
- On 19 May 2015, presentation at Yangon University Department of Law on ‘Copyright and Libraries’
- In February and May 2015, meetings took place with representatives from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information.
- Discussions were held with the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) Legal Affairs Committee and several library visits took place, for example, to the Parliament Library.
- In March and May 2015, EIFL submitted written comments on the draft copyright law under development in cooperation with MLA, to the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Culture.
- 3-4 September 2015: EIFL supported the participation of Daw Tin Win Yee, Copyright Coordinator, EIFL eLibrary Myanmar project and Daw Khin Sandar Win (MOST) at ‘Enabling Universal Access and Preservation of Knowledge through Libraries: Copyright Matters’, a regional seminar co-organized by EIFL in Kathmandu, Nepal;
- 14 August 2016: Daw Mya Oo, Director National Library of Myanmar Yangon presented a paper titled, 'Copyright reform in Myanmar' at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2016 in Columbus, US.
- In 2017, the MLA submitted suggestions - including EIFL’s recommendations - to Parliament when the copyright bill was being debated.
- In May 2019, the copyright law was adopted. It included key EIFL/MLA recommendations such as support for online education, document delivery services, and digital preservation by libraries and archives.
- In March 2020, EIFL published a review of Myanmar's Copyright Law 2019 available here.
- In October 2023, the Copyright Law 2019 entered into force - full text available on WIPOLex here.
Read more about EIFL’s work in Myanmar: