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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Limitations and exceptions for international copyright

P. Bernt Hugenholtz and Ruth L. Okediji, Conceiving and International Instrument on Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright, a report sponsored by the Open Society Institute, March 6, 2008.

The task of developing a global approach to limitations and exceptions (L&Es) is one of the major challenges facing the international copyright system today. As mechanisms of access, L&Es contribute to the dissemination of knowledge, which in turn is essential for a variety of human activities and values, including liberty, the exercise of political power, and economic, social and personal advancement. Appropriately designed L&Es may alleviate the needs of people around the world who still lack access to books and other educational materials, and also open up rapid advances in information and communication technologies that are fundamentally transforming the processes of production, dissemination and storage of information. ...

A new international instrument on L&Es offers a unique opportunity to coordinate, harmonize and balance the heightened (and new) standards of protection set forth in the successive Berne Convention Revisions, the TRIPS Agreement and the WIPO Internet Treaties. ... A global approach to L&Es would further help: ... ii) to alleviate institutional weakness of States who need diffusion most ([developing countries] and [least developed countries]); iii) to counteract the recent shift to bilateralism and regionalism in international copyright policymaking and; iv) to constrain unilateral ratcheting up of global standards. ...

The minimum goals of an international approach to L&Es would include: ... ii) facilitation of access to tangible information products; iii) promotion of innovation and competition; iv) support of mechanisms to promote/reinforce fundamental freedoms; and v) provision of consistency and stability in the international copyright framework by the explicit promotion of the normative balance necessary to support knowledge diffusion. ...

Comment. Copyright limitations and exceptions (such as fair use) are not necessary for OA. But limitations and exceptions facilitate access and re-use of non-OA materials in appropriate contexts, particularly (for our purposes) research and education.