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Manuel Sarmiento

Ahead of the third and final WIPO Regional Seminar in Santo Domingo (following on from Singapore and Nairobi), we interviewed Manuel Sarmiento, Secretary General of the Camara Colombiana del Libro about educational publishing in Latin America.

Can you tell us more about the importance of local publishers for the preservation of your country’s culture? And what is the role of publishing in the development of a solid creative economy in your country?

Official polices selected as a strategic priority to support the development of the publishing industry through tax incentives set out in the Book Law (Ley del Libro 98, 1993), which article 1 establishes as foundational principles:

  • Achieve the democratization of access to books and widen the use of books as the main and irreplaceable means of access to culture, knowledge, scientific and social research, preservation of cultural heritage and improvement of Colombian people’s quality of life
  • Encourage intellectual production of Colombian authors and writers of cultural and scientific works
  • Encourage Colombian people’s reading habits
  • Transform Colombia in a publishing hub, to enable competition in international markets
  • Exponentially increase exports of Colombian books
  • Support the free trade of books in Colombia and in America
  • Encourage and support the production of books, educational works, scientific journals and cultural publications through encouraging production, publishing and sales
  • Encourage and build capacity of those involved in creating, producing and communicating books, such as designers, illustrators, booksellers, librarians and others, thereby contributing to creating jobs and developing the publishing industry
  • Offers writers and publishing industries the conditions required to achieve the above outlined objectives.

What are the main challenges you face as a publisher?

The main challenge is piracy. In Colombia, piracy has been preventing the development of the publishing industry. In addition, the last years have brought an anti-copyright culture and even a disrespect for intellectual works. Nowadays there are movements promoting legislative populism at the Parliament, which is very damaging for the development of new business models.

What kind of problems do you face regarding piracy of your books? Is the digital environment helping pirates?

This is a very difficult fight. In addition to having to face the infringers, we face difficulties in motivating the police and the judiciary to intervene, as authorities require an active intervention from copyright owners. We have created a specialized program and unit in our association, which is fully dedicated to handling physical and digital piracy. In addition, we run education and prevention campaigns, to raise awareness of the public and discourage consumption of pirated products.

How important is copyright protection for educational publishers in Latin America?   

Copyright is crucial. Both unfortunately digital educational publishing is threatened by the disrespect of copyright in the classroom, often tolerated by educational authorities, with the excuse that education is a fundamental right of Colombian people.

What do you think is the potential impact of having cross-border exceptions to copyright in the online environment? Would that affect publishing of local works and the promotion of national authors in your country?

If cross border exceptions & limitations are imposed this would affect copyright owners and RROs and would eliminate the possibility of licensing users such as libraries, which has been a generalized practice so far.

Such exceptions & limitations are not justified, at least not in Colombia or in countries that have a private copy exception enabling users of libraries and archives to obtain copies of published works. In Latin America, the countries that have a private copy exception could consider using it to serve the needs of personal study and research. 

Insofar as it would affect licensing, such broad exceptions & limitations would violate the 3 step test, as it would cause unjustified damages to the interests of copyright owners and affect the normal exploitation of the work.

Are there any local initiatives that you would like to highlight? (e.g. civil society and/or industry initiatives to promote creative economy, reading literacy programs, copyright awareness initiatives, publishers collaborating in educational reforms) 

There is a governmental initiative to promote creative industries, but there isn’t an anti-piracy policy to protect them effectively.


Ahead of the WIPO Regional Seminar in Nairobi we conducted interviews with a number of African publishers. You can read those here.

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