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 Much of this reform is being driven by a perceived need to adapt outdated copyright laws to the digital age.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 302017

Today Sean Flynn and I are releasing the initial results of our research based on PIJIP’s Copyright User Rights Database. This research tool maps changes to copyright limitations and exceptions and other “user rights” from 1970 through 2016 in 21 countries of different development levels around the world. We intend to continue adding data from additional countries, but we feel that the current data allows us to begin demonstrating how differences in copyright user rights are associated with certain outcomes for innovative firms and researchers.

Our first results are based on tests of copyright limitation openness. We refer to “open” limitations as those that are open to the use of any kind of work, by any kind of user and for any purpose, as long as the use does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.  Continue reading »

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 »


New Report: Weakened Intermediary Liability Protections Will Cost 4.25 Million Jobs & Nearly Half A Trillion Dollars In Next Decade

 Posted by on July 6, 2017  Comments Off on New Report: Weakened Intermediary Liability Protections Will Cost 4.25 Million Jobs & Nearly Half A Trillion Dollars In Next Decade
Jul 062017

Internet Association Press Release, June 29, 2017. Link (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Today, Internet Association released a new analysis that found reducing intermediary liability safe harbor protections would cost the U.S. 4.25 million jobs and reduce GDP by nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade. Conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, the report represents the first quantitative measure of the value of safe harbor laws that protect internet platforms from being liable for wrongdoing by others. Continue reading »

Jun 192017

[Afro Leo, Afro-IP blog, Link (CC-BY)] Last week WIPO, Cornell University, INSEAD and their knowledge partners published their annual Global Innovation Index GII 2017. This index is a global benchmarking tool for determining the state of innovation on the globe. Its premise is that innovation is the key driver for economic growth and general prosperity.

The GII is notable because it far more than a measure of R&D or levels of patenting. Continue reading »


The Global Innovation Index 2017: Innovation Feeding the World

 Posted by on June 16, 2017  Comments Off on The Global Innovation Index 2017: Innovation Feeding the World
Jun 162017

The 2017 Global Innovation Index has been jointly published under a Creative Commons license by WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD. The WIPO press release on its publication is here.  The “Key Findings” section is reproduced below.  Click here for the full report.

Key Findings

From the Global Innovation Index 2017, devoted to measuring the innovation performance of 127 economies and the theme ‘Innovation Feeding the World’, six messages emerge. Many of these messages are concerned with innovation as a driver of growth generally. One is concerned specifically with the role of innovation as a way to address the growing need for advances in agriculture and food value chains. Continue reading »


Fair Use in the U.S. Economy: The Economic Contribution of Industries Relying on Fair Use

 Posted by on June 11, 2017  Comments Off on Fair Use in the U.S. Economy: The Economic Contribution of Industries Relying on Fair Use
Jun 112017

Computer & Communications Industry Association, Fair Use in the U.S. Economy: Economic Contribution of Industries Relying on Fair Use (CCIA: 2017), available online at

Executive Summary:  In 2007, CCIA released a report prepared by Capital Trade, Inc. that was the first comprehensive study quantifying the U.S. economic contribution of industries relying on fair use and related legal provisions. The current report is the third update of the size and performance of the fair use economy. This study finds that in 2014, value added by fair use industries was 16 percent of the U.S. economy, employing 1 in 8 U.S. workers, and contributing $2.8 trillion to U.S. GDP. Meanwhile, the combined value added by industries that are the most reliant on fair use and other limitations and exceptions to copyright protections has more than tripled in size over 2002. From 2012 to 2014, the real output of these primary core industries accounted for 6.7 percent of real GDP growth, six times their current weight in the U.S. economy. Continue reading »

Mar 272017

Author: Antoni Terra

Abstract: Digital piracy is a worldwide concern. Both very high and very low rates of intellectual property infringement threaten innovation, thus implying that some level of effective copyright regulation is required to incentivize the creation of original works. However, although Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates for social access to culture as well as the protection of copyright, many countries do not yet have an economic and legal balance between authors and consumers. Continue reading »

Mar 092017

Delivered March 8, 2017 at the Open Hearing that USTR conducted as part of the 2017 Special 301 Review

Thank you for the opportunity to testify at this hearing. My name is Mike Palmedo, and I work for American University Washington College of Law’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP). We are an academic research program that promotes the public interest in IP policy. Much of my recent research at PIJIP has involved the comparison of copyright limitations in different countries, and the examination of outcomes associated with different copyright limitation structures. Continue reading »

Nov 102016

Photo: Adrian (CC-BY)Yesterday, the American University economics department hosted a presentation by Joan Calzada of his working paper with Richard Gil, What Do News Aggregators Do? Evidence from Google News in Spain and Germany.  The paper studies the role of news aggregation, in which snippets from copyrighted news stories are reproduced on an aggregator’s website, which then provides a link to each full story on the copyright-holding newspapers’ own websites.  Calzada and Gils analyzed web traffic data for newspapers’ websites in Spain before and after Google News dropped out of the country following the imposition of a link fee. Continue reading »


Global Report on Access to Hepatitis C Treatment: Focus on Overcoming Barriers

 Posted by on October 28, 2016  Comments Off on Global Report on Access to Hepatitis C Treatment: Focus on Overcoming Barriers
Oct 282016

hep-c-report-coverStefan Wiktor, Françoise Renaud and Peter Beyer
World Health Organization | October 2016

Excerpt from Executive Summary:  This is the first-ever global report on treatment access to hepatitis C medicines. The report provides the information that countries and health authorities need to identify the appropriate HCV treatment, and procure it at affordable prices. The report uses the experience of several pioneering countries to demonstrate how barriers to treatment access can be overcome. It also provides information on the production of new hepatitis C drugs and generic versions worldwide, including  where  the  drugs  are  registered,  where  the  drugs  are  patented  and  where  not,  and  what  opportunities  countries have under the license agreements that were signed by some companies as well as current pricing of all recommended DAAs, including by generic companies all over the world.

Click here for the full report

Oct 172016

pills - cc hitthatswitchIndia is often called the “pharmacy of the developing world” because its pharmaceutical firms provide a large portion of the generic drugs consumed in the South. However, Northern countries are increasingly importing Indian drugs as well, as high prices have led to greater generic uptake.

As an example, the United States has greatly expanded the amount of medicines it buys from India. Continue reading »