The International Copyright System: Limitations, Exceptions and Public
Interest Considerations for Developing Countries in the Digital


World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Friday 23 September, 9h00 – 11h30

Geneva, Switzerland

Description | Programme | Participants | Documents




Access to basic educational material has far-reaching implications for the education policy aspects of sustainable development. Achieving universal primary education may help improve livelihoods, and contribute to the eradication of poverty and hunger as part of ongoing work towards the Millennium Development goals. With the creation of an unprecedented extensive layer of substantive international law to protect creative expression, access to copyrighted knowledge and educational material has become an issue of primary concern particularly in developing countries. Main concerns relate to the impact that exclusive rights might generate over access, prices and options for translating such material. This becomes particularly relevant in countries where the income of individuals, and consequently their purchasing power, is much lower than in developed countries.

Discussions on this question tend to focus on the diverse interests of rights owners and users, and on how these interests may be reconciled so that creativity is protected and access to knowledge, in particular for domestic non-commercial use, is facilitated at affordable prices. However, it must not be overlooked that access is also a significant part of the copyright balance in industrialised countries. Many industrialised countries, such as the USA, Germany, and Scandinavian countries, have well-established institutions (such as libraries, educational institutions, etc) that provide avenues of access (other than purchasing the product) for users and consumers. Their copyright exemptions are usually based on long-standing case law, explicit statutory provisions, and other flexibilities provided, inter alia, under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and relevant World Intellectual Property Organization's conventions.

In most developing countries, however, many of these flexibilities are either unavailable (due to, for example, newly negotiated free trade agreements) or not fully exploited. This roundtable aims to discuss some of the existing limitations and exceptions available in international copyright law which pertain to sustainable development outcomes. It will also analyse how we can expand the
public welfare component of international copyright regulations to find a balance between the mandatory standards of protection and the scope of discretion reserved to states to establish limitations and exceptions specifically directed at domestic concerns. In this context, the roundtable will also seek to expand knowledge on recent proposals made in the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights on exceptions and limitations.

The roundtable will benefit from the presentation of a research paper “The International Copyright System: Limitations, Exceptions and Public Interest Considerations for Developing Countries in the Digital Environment” by Ruth Okediji, William L. Prosser Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School to initiate the discussion.

© ICTSD 2004 - Last Update: 05-Oct-2009