Nov 202017

At the latest meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, there was new movement on copyright limitations and exceptions.

Argentina and Brazil tabled language that adds more specificity to the limitations and exceptions that may be offered to the new exclusive rights of broadcasters that the proposed Broadcast Treaty would require. But the proposal fails to follow the most recent best practices in international law by requiring exceptions, protecting fair use and safeguarding the digital environment. Continue reading »

Sep 252017

OTTAWA: It was being reported among various observers of NAFTA over the weekend that the talks in the IP chapter are progressing toward Copyright. The US appears poised to table the first set of its demands for that portion of the IP chapter. But it is also rumored that that the US demand may exclude the issue of copyright balance.

Civil society organizations, including internet freedom and information justice advocates from the US and Canada (Mexico was largely absent due to the earthquakes), gathered in Ottawa over the weekend to provide the public forum on NAFTA issues that the formal negotiation has yet to sponsor. The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic teamed with American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, OpenMedia, Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to discuss public interest concerns with the E-Commerce and copyright provisions of the potential agreement. Continue reading »

Aug 042017

[Originally published in South Africa’s Business Day, Link] Over the past two weeks, I have been participating in a series of events and workshops explaining copyright “fair use” rights to South African stakeholders and officials. This week, Parliament has been hearing about fair use while it considers the Copyright Amendment Bill, part of which includes the introduction of a fair use right.

Rights management organisations, which collect royalties from schools, venues and other organisations that use copyrighted works, are up in arms. A collection of these organisations and foreign media companies such as Sony Pictures, calling itself the Copyright Alliance, has claimed that fair use means: Continue reading »

Jul 112017

[Matthew Sag and Sean Flynn, IP Watch, Link (CC-BY-NC-SA)] This week, the South African Parliament began accepting comments on its pending Bill proposing to amend the South African Copyright Act to align it with the digital age. We and other experts and civil society organizations submitted comments praising many of the Bill’s provisions and proposing that it adopt an “open” fair use right. Here we focus on one major reason to adopt an open fair use right – to authorize so-called non-expressive uses of works. We conclude with some reflectio ns on how international law could help in this regard. Continue reading »


User Rights Network Submission on Copyright Amendment Bill

 Posted by on July 7, 2017  Comments Off on User Rights Network Submission on Copyright Amendment Bill
Jul 072017

Submitted jointly by the Global Expert Network on Copyright User Rights, Communia, Centrum Cyfrowe, and Creative Commons

Click here for the full submission (PDF)

Excerpt: We write to support the inclusion of a modern general exception in section 12 of the South African Copyright Act, and to offer refinements to the 2017 Bill’s proposal that we think would make it better serve the interests it promotes. General exceptions apply a single flexible balancing test (often defining what is “fair”) to authorise uses of copyrighted works for either an “open” or “closed” list of purposes. By open, we mean that the exception can apply to potentially any purpose, as in the United States, Israel, Malaysia and other countries. Closed list systems can only be applied to a purpose listed in the clause. Continue reading »


Statement to SCCR 34 on Copyright in the Digital Environment

 Posted by on May 5, 2017  Comments Off on Statement to SCCR 34 on Copyright in the Digital Environment
May 052017

World Intellectual Property Organization
34th Meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights
May 5, 2017

Chair: I would like to support that aspect of the GRUAC proposal that focuses on the role of limitations and exceptions in the digital environment as a top priority for this committee.

There is an increasing recognition that so-called non-expressive uses – uses necessary for technological processes that do not compete with the copyright owner – are necessary to enable the internet and the services that are offered over it. Continue reading »


Statement to SCCR on Educational Exceptions to Copyryight

 Posted by on May 3, 2017  Comments Off on Statement to SCCR on Educational Exceptions to Copyryight
May 032017

World Intellectual Property Organization
34th Meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights
May 3, 2017

Chair: You and I are from countries that have educational exceptions that are open to the use of any work, for any education related activity or purpose, and by any user —  subject to a fairness test that takes into account the rights of authors and rights holders.

This openness in the exceptions environment enables innovations that promote access to learning materials, including through new technologies and over the internet. Continue reading »

May 022017

There is increasing attention in international trade and copyright forums to the question of how international law should protect and promote copyright user rights. I presented the following options at this year’s Creative Commons Global Summit as examples of provisions that (at least partially) promote the organization’s mission of promoting “nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”

Existing models included in trade and other international agreements primarily serve two ends –

  1. protecting rights of countries to enact “fair use” rights, e.g. from the challenge that such exceptions could be held to violate the Berne “3-step test” as not being sufficiently tailored to “specific” cases, and
  2. affirmatively promoting user rights in copyrights systems, either through broad mandates to achieve “balance” or through mandatory exceptions for some categories of use.

Continue reading »

Dec 052016

sean - 150x150Originally posted Nov 29, updated Dec 5, 2016

A Copyright Amendment Bill will be tabled in Parliament by the South African government proposing to reform the current system of copyright law in the country to include a “fair use” clause modeled on US law. American University Washington College of Law’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) is visiting South Africa December 1 through 15 to participate in a series of workshops and lectures exploring how adoption of the proposed fair use standard may benefit creativity, innovation and development in the country. The workshops and presentations will include discussion of recommendations on the Bill submitted by legal scholars in a Joint Academic Submission on the Copyright Bill, consisting of a summary letter, table of section-specific comments, and proposed text for Sections 12 and 12A. Continue reading »

Oct 172016

sean - 150x150Senior copyright industry experts described the Trans Pacific Partnership and other recent free trade agreements as likely setting a “high water mark” for intellectual property commitments in trade agreements. The statements came as part of a symposium last week on Trading in IP: Copyright Treaties and International Trade Agreements sponsored by Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts.

Steve Metalitz, Partner at Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP and long-time Counsel to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, kicked off the discussion Continue reading »

Oct 102016

sean - 150x150Reports from the WTO Public Forum held last week highlights a notable shift in the World Trade Organization toward an E-Commerce Agenda. The issue appears likely to be addressed substantively in the 2017 Ministerial Conference. Through then, the organization is likely to be increasingly discussing the form and objectives of a possible negotiation on the topic.

The WTO has had an explicit E-Commerce agenda since 1998. But the issue is receiving substantially increased attention in the WTO now. Continue reading »


Public Participation in the WTO e-Commerce Discussion

 Posted by on October 10, 2016  Comments Off on Public Participation in the WTO e-Commerce Discussion
Oct 102016

sean - 150x150A workshop hosted by Electronic Frontier Foundation discussed the opportunity to use any WTO engagement with E-Commerce rules to expand transparency and participation processes for internet companies and users, academics and the greater public.

My intervention at that panel discussed at least three major goals that the WTO may have in constructing a more open discussion of E-Commerce rules: Continue reading »