Nov 092017

German Velasquez
South Centre Research Paper 82
November 2017.

The debate on generic medicines is not new. What makes it different today is that attacks levelled against biological products are couched in ever more “technical” and abstruse language that confuses even the World Health Organization (WHO). Continue reading »

Nov 072017

Abstract: With the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled in 2013, the international copyright community has shown its willingness to take further steps in the harmonization of limitations and exceptions in the field of copyright. However, the Marrakesh Treaty is only the tip of the iceberg. Its preparation and negotiation took place against the background of a much broader debate over the introduction of so-called “ceilings” in international copyright law: binding rules that set a maximum level of permissible protection. While the Marrakesh Treaty had success and became reality, the bigger project of regulating the ceilings of copyright protection in an international instrument is still pending.  Continue reading »

Nov 072017

Sean Flynn and Michael Palmedo
PIJIP Working Paper 2017-03

Introduction: Copyright law is the subject of increasingly contested debates around the world. Much of this reform is being driven by a perceived need to adapt outdated copyright laws to the digital age. Copyright owners often advocate that these reforms should center on expanding the length, scope, and enforceability of exclusive rights. However, there is a growing recognition that the digital environment warrants expansions in so-called user rights – rights to use copyrighted material without the permission of owners to facilitate a range of modern activities from social media to Internet search.

Few empirical studies analyze the impact of different ways to expand user rights for the digital environment. Should we designate specific digital activities – like indexing, or linking or forwarding an email – that are lawful? Alternatively, should we adopt broader principles of fairness that can be applied to new uses over time? Some theories suggest the second option – adoption of user rights that are more open to unforeseen purposes subject to a flexible test of the fairness – is better for enabling innovation and many modern creative practices.  But the existing empirical literature on copyright says little about whether more open and flexible or closed and narrow user rights are in fact better for the core purposes of copyright such as promoting innovation and creativity.

One reason for the lack of empirical research on the impact of more open and flexible user rights has been the absence of a tool to measure changes in this variable of the law. To promote additional and enhanced research into the impact of user rights, we created the User Rights Database. The User Rights Database is an open access repository of coded data showing how and when copyright user rights have changed over time in a representative sample of different countries. The twenty-one countries in our database thus far (with more coming), are split evenly between developing and wealthy countries and are representative of every major region and copyright legal family. The data documents changes in user right openness and flexibility in each country over a period stretching from 1970 to 2016.

We have begun to use the User Rights Database in empirical research projects. The first insight we draw is that there is a general trend toward more open user rights over time in all of the countries. Civil as well as common law systems, for example, have ample experience with exceptions that are openly applicable to any work, for any use, and by any user subject to a flexible “fair use” or “fair practice” balancing test. It is not true that only common law countries can or do implement open and flexible exceptions. That is not to say all countries are the same. More exceptions that are open are unequally distributed. Developing countries in our sample are now at the level of openness that existed in the wealthy countries about thirty years ago.

Another insight from our data is that very few countries have sufficient user rights most needed to support creativity and innovation in the digital economy. These crucial digital exceptions include those permitting transformative and non-expressive uses, including for text- and data-mining. Countries with an open general exception, such as the U.S. fair use right, have been quickest to authorize these new uses.

We used the database in a series of econometric tests. Our data supports the existing theoretical literature that suggests that more open user rights promote innovation and creativity. Namely, we find:

  • More open user rights environments are associated with higher firm revenues in information industries, including software, and computer systems design.
  • More open user rights environments are not associated with harm to industries known to rely upon copyright protection, such as publishing and entertainment.
  • Researchers in countries with more open user rights environments produce more scholarly output and more high-quality output.

The rest of this paper describes our hypotheses, methodologies and results in more detail. Section II surveys the existing theoretical literature that suggests that more open user rights promote innovation and creativity. Section III describes the methodologies we used to construct the User Rights Database. Section IV reports the findings of our econometric analysis.

Click here for the full working paper 

Further resources

Oct 242017

Catherine Tomlinson, Heather Moyo, Zain Rizvi, Claire Waterhouse, Salomé Meyer and Marcus Low on behalf of Fix the Patent Laws and the Cancer Alliance.  Click here for the full report (PDF)

Executive Summary:  Cancer rates in South Africa are expected to rise significantly over the next two decades.[4] In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase by more than 85% from 2008 to 2030.[5] Continue reading »


Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Development: A Better Set of Approaches for the 21st Century

 Posted by on October 20, 2017  Comments Off on Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Development: A Better Set of Approaches for the 21st Century
Oct 202017

Dean Baker[1], Arjun Jayadev[2] and Joseph Stiglitz[3]  | Full Paper (CC-BY)

Introduction:  The twenty first century global economy will differ from that of the twentieth in at least two critical ways. First, the weight of the developing world in the global economy will be substantially higher. In particular, emerging economies such as China, Brazil, India and South Africa will have a more important role to play based on their pace of growth. Second, the ‘weightless economy‘ – the economy of ideas, knowledge and information – will become an increasingly important fraction of economic output and ever more important for economic growth and development, both in developed and developing economies.

These two facts alone would suggest that economic institutions and laws created in the twentieth century, to manage the growth of currently advanced industrialised economies, will be increasingly inadequate to govern global economic activity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of intellectual property rights (IPRs). Continue reading »

Sep 292017

Author: Peter Yu

Abstract: In 1982, China promulgated its first modern intellectual property law, offering protection to trademarks. Since then, China adopted the Patent Law in 1984, the Copyright Law in 1990 and the Anti-Unfair Competition Law in 1993. In December 2001, China finally became a member of the WTO, assuming obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. One can certainly debate about the actual age of the modern Chinese intellectual property system, but it will not be too far-fetched to suggest that the system began in the early to mid-1980s and is now entering, or approaching, its middle age. What exactly does a middle-aged Chinese intellectual property system mean? Will the system hit its prime? Or is it about to face a hard-to-predict mid-life crisis? Continue reading »


NAFTA 2.0 and Intellectual Property Rights: Insights on Developing Canada’s Knowledge Economy

 Posted by on September 27, 2017  Comments Off on NAFTA 2.0 and Intellectual Property Rights: Insights on Developing Canada’s Knowledge Economy
Sep 272017

Centre for International Governance Innovation, Link (CC-BY-NC-SA)
Authors: Bassem Awad, Ariel Katz, Michael Geist, Howard Knopf, Teresa Scassa, Ysolde Gendreau, and Konstantia Koutouki

…Given the fast-paced negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and as part of efforts to support Canada’s negotiators and policy makers with clear, simple and factual analyses of Canada’s key interests within the negotiations, the International Law Research Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation commissioned a series of essays addressing intellectual property rights. A modernized chapter for intellectual property rights could have a deep impact on the emerging knowledge economy in Canada and for the people who turn ideas into innovations. Continue reading »

Sep 182017

Author: Peter Yu

Abstract: The debate on convergence and divergence has garnered considerable attention from policymakers and commentators involved in regulatory developments in Asia. The recent completion of the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the still ongoing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have added fuel to this debate. Given the different leadership in these two mega-regional agreements and the exclusion of many RCEP parties from the TPP negotiations, it will be interesting to see how the agreements will affect the future efforts to set regional intellectual property standards. It will also be curious to see whether the draft and finalized standards could reveal policy preferences of the participating countries. Continue reading »

Sep 142017

William Cross, Director, Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center, NCSU Libraries
Association of Research Libraries Issue Brief (CC-BY)
Click here for the full Issue Brief (PDF)

Government Information at Risk

Access to government information is a fundamental principle in a democratic society. Particularly in the digital environment, government information is a driver for economic and social progress as well as a predicate for an informed citizenry.[1] From 2009 through 2016, open government was a hallmark of the Obama administration, which observed that, “openness in government strengthens our democracy, promotes the delivery of efficient and effective services to the public, and contributes to economic growth.”[2] Continue reading »

Sep 052017

Author: Srividhya Ragavan

Abstract: This article attempts to understand the legitimacy and limitations of US involvement in another country’s sovereign actions taken expressly in the public interest, or to protect public health, such as the compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals. The first section takes the example of compulsory licensing as a legitimate sovereign action and delineates its scope in the light of the international trade obligations under TRIPS. Continue reading »


Copyright Easements

 Posted by on August 25, 2017  Comments Off on Copyright Easements
Aug 252017

Author: Jason Mazzone

Abstract: When authors assign the copyright in their work to publishers, some productive uses of the work are impeded. The author loses opportunities to use or to authorize others to use the work unless the publisher consents; the publisher does not permit all uses of the work that the author would like or that would benefit a consuming audience. Copyright easements can solve the problem.

Under a system of copyright easements, an easement holder would have designated rights in a creative work that would permit uses of the work that would ordinarily require permission of the copyright owner. If the author later assigns the copyright to a publisher, the copyright is held subject to the rights of the easement holder. The easement thus ties the author’s own hands: the author can no longer assign an unfettered copyright — and the publisher can no longer ask for it — because of the existence of the easement holder’s interests in the work. Continue reading »


How Licenses Give Access, But Can Also Take It Away

 Posted by on August 23, 2017  Comments Off on How Licenses Give Access, But Can Also Take It Away
Aug 232017

Release of the “Literature review on the use of licensing in library context, and the limitations this creates to access to knowledge”

[International Federation of Library Associations, Link (CC-BY] The way libraries acquire content is in transition. With a growing share of digital material in library collections, licences are a fact of life. However, and as many in the library world have already experienced, while licenses give access to knowledge, they can also restrict it.

IFLA’s Advisory Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters has therefore commissioned a literature review on the use of licensing in library context, and the limitations this creates to access to knowledge. The study, written by Svetlana Yakovleva and released today, looks through the available research, from theoretical analyses to practical survey work on libraries’ experience of licensing. It identifies the main limitations associated with copyright licenses in the library context, sets out how they impact both access and use of digital content, and provides examples. Continue reading »