Global Network on Copyright Users’ Rights: Model Flexible Copyright Exception


Primary Documents

Letters and Submissions by Network Experts

Publications by Network Experts

Further Resources/Analysis

Join or Contact the Network


The Global Network on Copyright Users’s Rights is a group of copyright experts from around the world assembled to generate policy options and expert guidance on the protection of users’ rights through flexible limitations and exceptions in national copyright laws, including to enable copyright laws to accommodate new uses and technologies that develop over time. This objective was outlined in the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, drafted at the inaugural Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law in August 2011. The Washington Declaration called for “discussion of employing ‘open-ended’ limitations in national copyright legislation, in addition to specific exceptions.” The Users’ Rights Network was created to answer that call.

The Primary Documents released here were drafted through a year-long consultative process with the Network’s founding members (below) — a broad group of copyright scholars and experts from across the spectrum of legal systems.

The Model Flexible Copyright Exception is designed to be adaptable in general form to most copyright laws – including those in common and civil law systems. The model could be included in a copyright law as a stand alone catch all exception. Or it could be added to an existing closed list of limitations and exceptions.

The model has two main parts. The core of the proposal is a general balancing test that could be added as a general clause to any existing list of limitations and exceptions. That provision states:

In addition to uses specifically authorized by law, any use that promotes general economic, social and cultural objectives is not infringing  if its character and extent is appropriate to its purposes and does not unduly prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner, taking account of the legitimate interests of creators, users, third parties and the public.

The second part of the model provides a more specific set of balancing factors that could be adopted in addition to the general clause to give additional guidance in its interpretation and implementation.

Appendix I identifies a long list of Presumptively Lawful Uses created through a survey of limitations and exceptions included in many copyright laws around the world. It is noteworthy that no copyright law with a closed list of limitations and exceptions that we have reviewed include protection for every one of the purposes listed – an argument in itself for including a flexible exception in every copyright law. This list could be used to guide the interpretation of the general clause — indicating to users as well as courts and enforcement officials the kinds of uses that should be considered presumptively lawful under the general clause.

Appendix II provides examples of flexible exceptions from existing copyright laws or proposals from around the world. These examples of general clauses that provide flexibility in limitations and exceptions influenced the Network in its work. The examples may give policy-makers another starting point for considering the crafting of their own flexible exception clause.

Appendix III provides some short responses to frequently asked questions about flexible copyright exceptions.

The network has also engaged in subsequent research, analysis and technical assistance — some of the products of which are posted in the Additional Resources section below the Primary Documents.




The Users’s Rights Network will continue to provide guidance and information to advocates and government officials in countries undergoing copyright reform.

JOIN: If you are a copyright expert or advocate interested in being part of the network, please fill out this very short form.

CONTACT: If you are an advocate or government official interested in receiving technical assistance form the network, email your inquiries to


Lionel BentleyChristophe GeigerPranesh  PrakashRonan DeazleyCarolyn BoteroDick KawooyaHong Xue

Pedro Mizukami

Pedro Paranagua

Daniel Gervais

Denis Barbosa

Michael GeistMichael BirnhackNiva ElkinCaroline NcubeLucie GuibaultBernt HugenholtzSteph Von Gompel

Fred Von Lohmann

Martin Senftleben

Michael Carroll

Peter Jaszi

Sean FlynnHenning Ruse-KhanRebecca GiblinEllen BroadLila BaileyRobert BurrellAlberto Cerda

Gwen Hinze

Meredith Jacob

Ariel Katz

Howard Knopf

Kaya KoeklueAhmed Abdel LatifOliver MetzgerSylvie NerissonMike PalmedoMatt SagPam Samuelson

Alan Rocha de Souza

Jennifer Urban

Kimberlee Weatherall

Peter Yu


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